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Help me fill out my minimalist amateur studio setup?


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Evening all, I'm new to both this forum and to Logic Pro, I recently purchased the Studio bundle with my (insanely good) student discount at my university.

 

While music didn't make its way into my major or school career, I have still had a gnawing interest to get more involved in production and playing to learn and entertain than I have. 9 years of piano overlapping with 5 years of guitar largely went to waste on a younger me, who didn't realize that he would regret not taking it more seriously someday. :(

 

Anyway, I recently purchased this software as a result of buying a i5 Intel 15" MacBook Pro, and as a new convert to Mac OS as well as now Logic, I am thrilled so far. My love of the software has led me to attempt to set up a comprehensive yet cheap studio for myself, and here's what I have so far:

 

- 15" MacBook Pro 4gb RAM, i5 Processor, etc, Running Logic Studio 9 (Education License)

 

- Korg SP170 Digital Piano

 

- Yamaha cable-style midi interface for the piano

 

- Akai MINI USB MIDI controller

 

- Yamaha Electric guitar and Peavy Studio amp (no current way of connecting this to my computer)

 

- Logitech computer speakers (powerful and THX certified, but designed for gaming. A remnant of my PC gaming days, these are connected through the stereo jack to my Macbook)

 

 

My objectives are to get as close as possible to studio-quality sound (to the point of the average listener, including me, not being able to tell the difference) without truly breaking the bank. I know my setup is far from ideal, as I am still a student and even without the concern of money still have to detach the MacBook from everything each morning and take it to class to take notes, but I know there are some things I can do or throw into the mix to make things sound better in the end.

 

Obviously I have no intent of recording live drums or anything like that, the most I might do is pick up a Bass guitar. I know that I should look into a preamp or audio interface (Firewire?) but I'm not sure of the specifics of that, or if it would necessitate my picking up some studio monitors to hear everything (or if I should buy some new speakers anyway?)

 

I intend to futz around with everything from blues to house/DnB, but since I know my physical instrument constraints are probably going to stop at Guitar and Bass Guitar, I really just should focus on getting the best sound out of that.

 

So sorry for the wall of text, but anyone have any suggestions as to where I should start or look? Price is a major concern for me, obviously, but not to the point of sacrificing quality to an extreme amount.

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I would really strongly recommend getting a pair of studio monitors, which in most cases will require an audio interface. I found out the hard way that it's nigh on impossible to get anywhere if you can't hear what you're doing.

 

Second-hand is your friend, check ebay, gearslutz classifieds forum etc.

 

Having said that, apparently Four Tet makes his records using a home stereo instead of monitors (or so I read somewhere) and he ain't doing too badly!

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I would really strongly recommend getting a pair of studio monitors, which in most cases will require an audio interface. I found out the hard way that it's nigh on impossible to get anywhere if you can't hear what you're doing.

 

Second-hand is your friend, check ebay, gearslutz classifieds forum etc.

 

Having said that, apparently Four Tet makes his records using a home stereo instead of monitors (or so I read somewhere) and he ain't doing too badly!

 

I guessed as much about the speakers, and the audio interface...

 

These are the speakers I have now:

 

http://www.amazon.com/Logitech-Z-2300-THX-Certified-Speaker-Subwoofer/dp/B0002SQ2P2

 

As for an audio interface, what should I look for that could allow me to kill the birds of my guitar(s) and possible future monitors with one stone?

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I would highly recommend the Apogee Duet FW interface - www.audiomidi.com/Duet-2-Channel-FireWi ... P9798.aspx The AD/DA converters sound great for an interface in that price range. You probably won't need any more inputs since it sounds like you'll be recording just some guitar and bass. As for monitors, multimedia speakers are not ideal for music production. If you're strapped for cash, it might be better to hold off on buying new monitors until you can afford a great-sounding pair such as the Dynaudio BM5A MK2's - www.sweetwater.com/store/detail/BM5Amk2/

 

You've probably already taken in account a solid backup plan, but I thought I would mention it anyway. I've been burned in the past by a failing hard drive, and ever since, backing up my sessions and other important files has become an essential element of recording for me. You can never be too safe. Good luck.

 

- xpander

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I would highly recommend the Apogee Duet FW interface - www.audiomidi.com/Duet-2-Channel-FireWi ... P9798.aspx The AD/DA converters sound great for an interface in that price range. You probably won't need any more inputs since it sounds like you'll be recording just some guitar and bass. As for monitors, multimedia speakers are not ideal for music production. If you're strapped for cash, it might be better to hold off on buying new monitors until you can afford a great-sounding pair such as the Dynaudio BM5A MK2's - www.sweetwater.com/store/detail/BM5Amk2/

 

You've probably already taken in account a solid backup plan, but I thought I would mention it anyway. I've been burned in the past by a failing hard drive, and ever since, backing up my sessions and other important files has become an essential element of recording for me. You can never be too safe. Good luck.

 

- xpander

 

+1. Apogee is highly reputable, and I love my Duet. It's a little pricier than some of the other options out there, but from what I've read, a lot of people on this site seem to think it's the best in the price range.

 

As for monitors, I won't offer any recommendations. I've got some Mackie MR5s, and I like them, but I'll admit I haven't heard enough other options to offer a personal comparison. At the similar price ranges, others seem to like Yamaha HS50s and KRK Rokit 5s. Just to throw out names to chew on.

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Having said that, apparently Four Tet makes his records using a home stereo instead of monitors (or so I read somewhere) and he ain't doing too badly!

 

"Far from a technophile, he uses no outboard gear, mixing desks or studio monitors, and he's hooked up his recording rig to the hi-fi stereo that he's had since he was 14, complete with Sony speakers he bought for about $140."

 

- From http://emusician.com/remixmag/artists_interviews/musicians/remix_audio_anarchy/

 

That's good to know, I also use Sony speakers in the same price range with an early 80s JVC amplifier. I'm totally happy with it, and monitors are about the last thing on my music-making wish list.

 

For the OP: why not test the suitability of your speakers? Mix some music, then see how well the mix translates to as many different stereos as you can play it on.

 

And just to throw another angle into the discussion, I've been very happy with my Zoom H4n: good stereo condensor mics (that you never have to worry about phasing issues with), a more-than-acceptable audio interface (44.1kHz or 48kHz, also because it has a click-track, you can record in all sorts of interesting places to make the most of natural reverbs), mobile 4-track (great for jamming out ideas when away from home, and tons of guitar and bass effects). It's great value for money, though if the mic preamps are a major concern, I'd agree you'd be better off with the duet, but then you have to invest in a decent mic, and then room treatment etc.

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Thanks a bunch for the replies folks, nice to know I wasn't to far off the mark in guessing what I needed.

 

One thing I forgot to mention is that I also have a semi-decent pair of Creative studio headphones, and while they might not be any better than my speakers, I'm not sure.

 

Either way, I can lust after the Apogee now, knowing that it's something I could use... Out of curiosity though, is there anything comparable that is cheaper? For instance, these Line 6 and M-Audio interfaces I keep seeing crop up in the $100-$200 range, are they the same sort of thing, or do they lack something like a preamp (or comparable quality)?

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Ok so, not meaning to resurrect this topic from the dead, but I discovered that my local music shop carries this interface:

 

http://www.focusrite.com/products/audio_interfaces/saffire_pro_14

 

Thoughts? It's a sight cheaper than the Apogee, is the quality comparable?

 

Those are pretty good interfaces. It offers some advantages over the Duet (S/PDIF in and out, MIDI) also. My guess is you would be quite happy with it.

 

But I still love my Duet. :)

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It's a sight cheaper than the Apogee, is the quality comparable?

 

In general you get what you pay for. Try searching the forum for "focusrite saffire", you should find a few people having issues with it - seemingly more so than with the Apogee Duet which just works.

 

Plenty of people have used them successfully with Logic. It is not as plug and play, but I'm not sure this would worry me THAT much.

 

To me the reason to pop for the Duet is the much better sound quality.

 

Ultimately you do get what you pay for, but if you are tight on cash the focusrite is like half the price of a Duet and better than the m-audio stuff. Simple fact is, not much under $1000 is going to touch the sound quality of the Duet, but if you are looking for cheaper, you are going to have to sacrifice some sound quality.

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Plenty of people have used them successfully with Logic. It is not as plug and play, but I'm not sure this would worry me THAT much.

 

I'm not really concerned with the amount of people using a device successfully with Logic. I'm more concerned with the amount of people reporting problems setting up a particular device with Logic. It seems there's been many Saffire users reporting problems, while the only problem I've seen people reporting with the Duet is that some people have to turn the gain all the way down when using the instrument preamp.

 

I, personally, have never used a Saffire, so I can only go by what I see being reported on this forum.

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Duly noted.

 

Another option that seems to have escaped my observation thus far is the Apogee ONE, since I am in need of both a microphone for analogue recording, as well as in light of the fact that since I would only be recording in the form of over-dubbing, one input is not an issue.

 

Would any other major factors be lacing with the ONE as opposed to the Duet?

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It's a USB connection… the only concern I can imagine would be latency, if anything, but I doubt if it would be anything severe.

 

While thinking about this question, I came across this from Google: http://onevsduet.blogspot.com/2010/01/apogee-one-vs-duet.html . Though it's specifically comparing the two Apogee options, I think it should give you a good idea of where the One stands. Personally, I'm still entertaining buying a One to throw in my laptop bag for one of those just-in-case-type scenarios.

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I've never had a problem with my Saffire, and I wasn't aware there a lot of problems reported with it. Mine has been great. I've never used the Apogees so I don't know what I'm missing sound quality-wise. I needed something to record drums so I didn't even consider the Duet.
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