Professional sound card for band recording

The place to sound off on all things related to audio, from sound cards to speakers.

Moderator: Captain Ned

Professional sound card for band recording

Postposted on Sat Feb 06, 2010 1:52 am

Currently, at my church, we have a basic Dell that has one line hooked into it from the sound board. Using audacity, this works fine for recording the messages.

However, my church now wants to be able to start recording their music services. The basic on-board sound of the Dell will absolutely not do. So I said that we'd need to get a new sound card (which of course would necessitate the buying of a new computer, since the Dell has no expansion ports. Hellllloooo econ-box!) Anyways, I'm looking for a professional sound card that can capture the full range of musical instruments (keyboard, vocals, guitar, bass). Since we're looking at the econo-box, we have several hundred (~$250) to buy a sound card that could do this.

I'm very familiar with Audacity and really like it, so I'd like to stick with that, if at all possible.

You guys have any suggestions? Even if you don't know a sound card that would do the trick, any tips/tricks/experiences would be most helpful.
Venii, vidii, vicii
Wii came, Wii saw , Wii conquered
Sargent Duck
Grand Gerbil Poohbah
Silver subscriber
 
 
Posts: 3073
Joined: Thu Mar 13, 2003 8:05 pm
Location: In my secret cave that has bats

Re: Professional sound card for band recording

Postposted on Sat Feb 06, 2010 9:49 pm

How many inputs do you need on the card itself? Are you doing your mixing on a controller and then out to your sound device? or do you need some extra hardware for multi-channel recording? If it's the former, an Audiophile 192 is most likely more than enough, and you may even be OK with the Audiophile 2496 . If it's the latter, you've got alot more than $250 worth of spending ahead of you.

M-Audio's Win7 drivers for both 32-bit and 64-bit.

edit: if you don't mind Creative, Auzentech makes some really high-end X-fi cards. I don't mind them but lots of other folks won't touch them.
I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do, I do not do. But what I hate, I do.
derFunkenstein
Gerbil God
Gold subscriber
 
 
Posts: 21337
Joined: Fri Feb 21, 2003 9:13 pm
Location: WHAT?

Re: Professional sound card for band recording

Postposted on Sat Feb 06, 2010 10:02 pm

I'm not a sound guy at all, so bear with me!

We'll be receiving input from the sound board, so that will take care of the mixing. We're currently using the Dell on-board sound which I'm pretty sure is not up to the task of recording all the different frequencies.

Ideally, I'd like to stay away from Creative as much as possible, although if they're the only ones then so be it.

Is audacity capable of handling the job?
Venii, vidii, vicii
Wii came, Wii saw , Wii conquered
Sargent Duck
Grand Gerbil Poohbah
Silver subscriber
 
 
Posts: 3073
Joined: Thu Mar 13, 2003 8:05 pm
Location: In my secret cave that has bats

Re: Professional sound card for band recording

Postposted on Sat Feb 06, 2010 10:51 pm

Audacity is a fine app for recording audio. I use it when we make rehearsal tracks for mixed ensembles in conjunction with a Toshiba laptop that has an ALC660 and I really like it. Basically Audacity is going to see your sound board as a single, stereo line input from your sound card, most likely. What do the output connectors look like? 1/4" headphone-looking outputs, red and white RCA-style connectors, something else? What's the purpose of the recording, to make audio CDs?

The crazy thing is, with ASIO4All, if your dell has a regular 3.5mm line input, you could do something like an RCA -> 3.5mm converter and monitor your input with relatively low latencies. Recordings from a dedicated card are sure to sound better, though.
I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do, I do not do. But what I hate, I do.
derFunkenstein
Gerbil God
Gold subscriber
 
 
Posts: 21337
Joined: Fri Feb 21, 2003 9:13 pm
Location: WHAT?

Re: Professional sound card for band recording

Postposted on Sat Feb 06, 2010 11:08 pm

If it were me, I would be tempted to use a mixer from somebody like Alesis with a USB2 or Firewire interface into the PC. Some of them can do 8 or 16 discrete channels into the PC and then recorded in a multi-track capable software package.

How fancy is the mixer board in use, and how far away from the workstation is it? Any chance that the board could simply be replaced with one that can output directly to the PC over a digital interface as well as perform the current mixer duties as well?

-SF
"Had this been an actual emergency, we would have fled in terror, and you would not have been notified."
SlyFerret
Graphmaster Gerbil
 
Posts: 1041
Joined: Thu Feb 28, 2002 7:00 pm
Location: Delaware, Ohio

Re: Professional sound card for band recording

Postposted on Sat Feb 06, 2010 11:37 pm

What vintage is the PC and what OS? If this is an older XP machine with at least one spare PCI slot, an Audigy 2 ZS (not the SE) would be plenty for the task. Yeah, it's a Creative product, but you can get them for about $30 off eBay and the default WindowsUpdate drivers are stable on XP.

Or there's always the entry level Asus Xonar for about $50.
He who laughs last, laughs first next time.
ludi
Gerbil Elder
 
Posts: 5439
Joined: Fri Jun 21, 2002 10:47 pm
Location: Sunny Colorado front range

Re: Professional sound card for band recording

Postposted on Sun Feb 07, 2010 11:29 am

Also take a look at external options if you ever want to replace the dell. A good card will outlast it by far. As for brands, I have friends that are using RME in their setups. And from what I've heard, ESI also has some good stuff. Alesis and M-Audio was already mentioned.
Aphasia
Grand Gerbil Poohbah
 
Posts: 3453
Joined: Tue Jan 01, 2002 7:00 pm
Location: Solna/Sweden

Re: Professional sound card for band recording

Postposted on Sun Feb 07, 2010 11:58 am

Sargent Duck wrote:The basic on-board sound of the Dell will absolutely not do.

Sargent Duck wrote:I'm not a sound guy at all, so bear with me!

We'll be receiving input from the sound board, so that will take care of the mixing. We're currently using the Dell on-board sound which I'm pretty sure is not up to the task of recording all the different frequencies.

Not trying to be argumentative but... why not at least TRY to use the on-board sound? You're assuming that it's going to be horribly inferior to a discrete card, and that is simply not true. The mixing duties have already been taken care of, so all you want to do is take a signal from the line-in and record it, correct?

Unless you're an audiophile (and you've already said that you're not) or you're going to be sending these recordings to be professionally mastered onto a CD, you are not going to notice the difference. Sounds to me like you're looking for an excuse to spend someone else's money.
GA-EP45-DS3R · E8500@3.8 · Scythe Ninja+ · 8GB G.Skill DDR2-800 · MSI TwinFrozr HD7850 · Corsair VX450 · Antec Solo
180GB i520 SSD · WD1002FAEX · Plextor PX-755SA · HP ZR24w · Intel EXPI9301CT · X-Fi XtremeGamer · Win7/Mint
nerdrage
Graphmaster Gerbil
 
Posts: 1279
Joined: Thu Mar 06, 2003 2:49 pm
Location: Raleigh/Durham, NC

Re: Professional sound card for band recording

Postposted on Sun Feb 07, 2010 12:53 pm

It is certainly worth at least trying the onboard sound, to see what the quality is like. The main issue you may run into is poor S/N ratio; some onboard soundcards are much better in this area than others (and some are downright nasty).
(this space intentionally left blank)
just brew it!
Administrator
Gold subscriber
 
 
Posts: 37705
Joined: Tue Aug 20, 2002 10:51 pm
Location: Somewhere, having a beer

Re: Professional sound card for band recording

Postposted on Sun Feb 07, 2010 2:03 pm

nerdrage wrote:Unless you're an audiophile (and you've already said that you're not) or you're going to be sending these recordings to be professionally mastered onto a CD, you are not going to notice the difference. Sounds to me like you're looking for an excuse to spend someone else's money.

Have you actually tried to do the above? You'll get a sizable amount of noise together with your signal in most cheap solutions. I run my guitar pedalboard to my PC via the line-in for monitoring and I can record from there but there's noise (and what seems to be a ground loop for good measure).
There is a fixed amount of intelligence on the planet, and the population keeps growing :(
morphine
Gerbil Khan
Silver subscriber
 
 
Posts: 9986
Joined: Fri Dec 27, 2002 8:51 pm
Location: Portugal (that's next to Spain)

Re: Professional sound card for band recording

Postposted on Mon Feb 08, 2010 7:27 am

SlyFerret wrote:If it were me, I would be tempted to use a mixer from somebody like Alesis with a USB2 or Firewire interface into the PC. Some of them can do 8 or 16 discrete channels into the PC and then recorded in a multi-track capable software package.

that could be upwards of 10x the stated budget.

The onboard audio on my PC is definitely not suitable, showing alot of noise like mtphine's. I don't do alot of recording with it and the noise is why. I agree with the assessment of getting a discrete card. I'd just try to use the mixer they have with it us all :)
I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do, I do not do. But what I hate, I do.
derFunkenstein
Gerbil God
Gold subscriber
 
 
Posts: 21337
Joined: Fri Feb 21, 2003 9:13 pm
Location: WHAT?

Re: Professional sound card for band recording

Postposted on Mon Feb 08, 2010 10:06 am

derFunkenstein wrote:
SlyFerret wrote:If it were me, I would be tempted to use a mixer from somebody like Alesis with a USB2 or Firewire interface into the PC. Some of them can do 8 or 16 discrete channels into the PC and then recorded in a multi-track capable software package.

that could be upwards of 10x the stated budget.


You're right, it certainly could. There are lots of REALLY cool toys out there 8) , but doesn't have to be that expensive.

The one I would prefer is about $80 more than the stated budget of $250. It allows for 8 discrete channels to be recorded on the PC via the USB 2.0 interface. I believe the recommended recording software is Cubase, but I think audacity is also capable of recording all 8 tracks simultaneously.
http://www.sweetwater.com/store/detail/MultiMix8U2/

If you can get by with mixing everything down to stereo at the mixer, and recording only stereo on the PC, this one would get you by for about $90 less than the stated budget of $250. It takes 8 channels in and lets you mix down to stereo.
http://www.sweetwater.com/store/detail/MultiMix8USB/

If you can get by with 4 channels, mixed down to stereo, this is also a nice little unit for about $80.
http://www.sweetwater.com/store/detail/MultiMix4USB/


derFunkenstein wrote:The onboard audio on my PC is definitely not suitable, showing alot of noise like mtphine's. I don't do alot of recording with it and the noise is why. I agree with the assessment of getting a discrete card. I'd just try to use the mixer they have with it us all :)


I have had the same problem with the on-board audio on my systems. Lots of noise. Ground loops producing a 60Hz hum is usually the issue that I have.

-SF
"Had this been an actual emergency, we would have fled in terror, and you would not have been notified."
SlyFerret
Graphmaster Gerbil
 
Posts: 1041
Joined: Thu Feb 28, 2002 7:00 pm
Location: Delaware, Ohio

Re: Professional sound card for band recording

Postposted on Mon Feb 08, 2010 11:37 am

In my experience, the biggest issue you're going to run into is not the equipment you have in the computer to capture the audio, but the way you'll be mixing the audio.

The way audio is mixed for live sound is quite different from the way it is mixed for recording. So, while the audio may sound fantastic in the room, it will sound terrible on the recording. Note that is a will and not a might. The difference in quality between on board and discrete is irrelevant here.

There is a solution still: direct out. This will require another mixer. The second mixer will be used for the recording and it will be set quite differently from the live mixer. If the live mixer has direct out connection for each position, and depending on where the direct out takes it signals, you'll have an untouched signal that you can tweak for the recording via a recording mixer.

So, having a single mixer will not give you the desired results and you Having two mixers will get you closer to it. There are mixers out there that do have the capability to feed a digital audio signal directly to a PC via USB or FireWire, like the Onyx-i series by Mackie. That's what you'll really need to look at to accomplish your goal, not a new computer.

P.S.: Opting for another mixer instead of a new computer will still stay within the budget. A cursory search reveals that the 12-channel mixer is about $700 new. You can get it used for much less.
The best things in life are free.
http://www.gentoo.org
Guy 1: Surely, you will fold with me.
Guy 2: Alright, but don't call me Shirley.
titan
Grand Gerbil Poohbah
 
Posts: 3276
Joined: Mon Feb 18, 2002 7:00 pm
Location: Great Smoky Mountains

Re: Professional sound card for band recording

Postposted on Mon Feb 08, 2010 3:15 pm

Hmm, I had no idea a reasonable mixer would be that reasonably priced. Right now the only mixing I do is to a PA system and we're using the included mixer that came with our Yamaha Stagepas 300 and it's got everything we need, 8-channel input and output to the PA monitors. But since these that SlyFerret linked mix over USB, that + ASIO4All eliminates the need (in this situation, I think) for a discrete sound card.

I get what titan is saying, that you need to mix live for the room where the congregation is and then re-mix it through a second mixer for the recording. I think I'm learning something here. Brilliant!
I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do, I do not do. But what I hate, I do.
derFunkenstein
Gerbil God
Gold subscriber
 
 
Posts: 21337
Joined: Fri Feb 21, 2003 9:13 pm
Location: WHAT?

Re: Professional sound card for band recording

Postposted on Mon Feb 08, 2010 4:03 pm

ludi wrote:What vintage is the PC and what OS? If this is an older XP machine with at least one spare PCI slot, an Audigy 2 ZS (not the SE) would be plenty for the task. Yeah, it's a Creative product, but you can get them for about $30 off eBay and the default WindowsUpdate drivers are stable on XP.

Or there's always the entry level Asus Xonar for about $50.
derFunkenstein wrote: Basically Audacity is going to see your sound board as a single, stereo line input from your sound card, most likely. What do the output connectors look like? 1/4" headphone-looking outputs, red and white RCA-style connectors, something else? What's the purpose of the recording, to make audio CDs?


The purpose is to pretty much make audio tracks so the individual members can practice at home. I currently have the two red and white RCA-style connectors coming from the sound board and merging down into a 1/4 headphone connector, feeding into the computer's input.

SlyFerret wrote:
How fancy is the mixer board in use, and how far away from the workstation is it? Any chance that the board could simply be replaced with one that can output directly to the PC over a digital interface as well as perform the current mixer duties as well?

-SF


The mixer board is about 16 channels and located right beside the computer. It does not have digital output.


ludi wrote:What vintage is the PC and what OS? If this is an older XP machine with at least one spare PCI slot, an Audigy 2 ZS (not the SE) would be plenty for the task. [/url] for about $50.
Windows XP Media Center, P4 ~2.8Ghz

nerdrage]Not trying to be argumentative but... why not at least TRY to use the on-board sound? You're assuming that it's going to be horribly inferior to a discrete card, and that is simply not true. The mixing duties have already been taken care of, so all you want to do is take a signal from the line-in and record it, correct?

Unless you're an audiophile (and you've already said that you're not) or you're going to be sending these recordings to be professionally mastered onto a CD, you are not going to notice the difference. Sounds to me like you're looking for an excuse to spend someone else's money.[/quote]

Not at all. I was under the impression that the sound mixer would be outputting serveral channels of audio (I've only ever recorded speech), so it would seem my base assumption was incorrect! From reading these responses, I've learnt that all the audio from the sound mixer outputs everything through the line-in.

[quote="just brew it! wrote:
It is certainly worth at least trying the onboard sound, to see what the quality is like. The main issue you may run into is poor S/N ratio; some onboard soundcards are much better in this area than others (and some are downright nasty).

The speech I've recorded is pretty poor. It could be the recording options I have with audacity (using mono to cut down on size) so I'll have to test this a bit more.

derFunkenstein wrote:I get what titan is saying, that you need to mix live for the room where the congregation is and then re-mix it through a second mixer for the recording. I think I'm learning something here. Brilliant!


As am I. I handled the multi-media which I know, but sound? *crickets chirping in the distance*
Venii, vidii, vicii
Wii came, Wii saw , Wii conquered
Sargent Duck
Grand Gerbil Poohbah
Silver subscriber
 
 
Posts: 3073
Joined: Thu Mar 13, 2003 8:05 pm
Location: In my secret cave that has bats

Re: Professional sound card for band recording

Postposted on Mon Feb 08, 2010 7:14 pm

Well, it isn't a re-mix as much as a redux. Re-mix implies that I'm taking a mixed signal and then mixing it again. (At least, that's the way it reads to me. :D ) But that's the idea, essentially. What you hear in the room will not be what you hear from the recording. So, the mix will have to be redone on a separate mixer to get it right.

To offer myself some credibility here, I used to mix sound for a church band way back when. They were quite good. Anyway, a time came when we needed to make a recording. That's when we discovered that little snag.

The direct outs send signals from the mixer that are totally unfettered with. Mostly. A lot of it depends whether or not the signal is taken before or after the EQ, and before or after the Gain. Some mixers provide options for both. Ideally, you'd want a direct out that takes the signal before the Gain at best, and after the Gain at worst. Grabbing the signal after the EQ starts getting you back into the sound being mixed for the room and not the recording. You could still work with this, but it isn't great and may rear up muddiness issues. Using a split might do the trick in the absence of a direct out. Not sure how that'd work out, though.

EDIT: Whoops! One of those befores should have been an after.
Last edited by titan on Tue Feb 09, 2010 2:59 am, edited 1 time in total.
The best things in life are free.
http://www.gentoo.org
Guy 1: Surely, you will fold with me.
Guy 2: Alright, but don't call me Shirley.
titan
Grand Gerbil Poohbah
 
Posts: 3276
Joined: Mon Feb 18, 2002 7:00 pm
Location: Great Smoky Mountains

Re: Professional sound card for band recording

Postposted on Mon Feb 08, 2010 8:06 pm

titan wrote:Ideally, you'd want a direct out that takes the signal before the Gain at best, and before the Gain at worst.

Should the second before be an after?

Having been an occasional on/off roadie for the past 25 years, running a mixer real-time for live recording is a bitch of a job unless the recording mixer's ears are totally isolated from the FOH sound mix. That means a separate soundproof room at best, although high-quality IEM 'phones (Shure SE530s are my faves) go a long way toward isolation.

Multitrack as much as you can so that the mix can be adjusted once you're back in a quiet place with your high-quality playback system. Don't try to create a 2 channel recording mixdown on-the-fly. For the recording mix use as much DI as you can as mike bleed will make mixdown even more challenging.
It is one of the blessings of old friends that you can afford to be stupid with them. Ralph Waldo Emerson.
Captain Ned
Global Moderator
Gold subscriber
 
 
Posts: 20275
Joined: Wed Jan 16, 2002 7:00 pm
Location: Vermont, USA

Re: Professional sound card for band recording

Postposted on Mon Feb 08, 2010 9:42 pm

The purpose is to pretty much make audio tracks so the individual members can practice at home. I currently have the two red and whit RCA-style connectors coming from the sound board and merging down into a 1/4 headphone connector, feeding into the computer's input.

One of the many nice things about the Audiophile 2496 is that it has red and white RCA inputs, so you can lose that headphone adapter. If your board doesn't have a digital out and this is as good as it gets, you'll almost have to have a discrete sound card.

But at the same time, if this is just a practice disc, the quality isn't the utmost of importance. When we're creating practice CDs for small vocal ensembles, I have the absolute most ghetto setup ever. I'm using the USB mic from Rock Band (which does a reasonable job) and Audacity on my wife's laptop. I've got the mic clipped to a mic stand that sits above the piano and we play a piano track to record. Then we record a voice in another track in the project and mix that down for, say, a soprano track. Then we record another vocal track for alto, then tenor, bass, whatever we need. That might be better than trying to record everything together, but if you need more than piano and a vocal track, it can be difficult, because now you're multi-track recording each track separately similarly to what they might do in a studio.
I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do, I do not do. But what I hate, I do.
derFunkenstein
Gerbil God
Gold subscriber
 
 
Posts: 21337
Joined: Fri Feb 21, 2003 9:13 pm
Location: WHAT?

Re: Professional sound card for band recording

Postposted on Tue Feb 09, 2010 3:00 am

Captain Ned wrote:
titan wrote:Ideally, you'd want a direct out that takes the signal before the Gain at best, and before the Gain at worst.

Should the second before be an after?

Yup. Fixed.
The best things in life are free.
http://www.gentoo.org
Guy 1: Surely, you will fold with me.
Guy 2: Alright, but don't call me Shirley.
titan
Grand Gerbil Poohbah
 
Posts: 3276
Joined: Mon Feb 18, 2002 7:00 pm
Location: Great Smoky Mountains

Re: Professional sound card for band recording

Postposted on Wed Feb 10, 2010 6:00 pm

A big thanks to everybody.

Wow. That's a lot of info for me to take in. It is just a practice cd, so quality can be poor...certainly not justifiable enough to buy another board. Thanks once again!
Venii, vidii, vicii
Wii came, Wii saw , Wii conquered
Sargent Duck
Grand Gerbil Poohbah
Silver subscriber
 
 
Posts: 3073
Joined: Thu Mar 13, 2003 8:05 pm
Location: In my secret cave that has bats

Re: Professional sound card for band recording

Postposted on Mon Apr 19, 2010 8:38 pm

When you get to the point that you want to record high-quality audio, consider the Asus Xonar Essence ST. I have one, and it has 1/4" input and output jacks, 2 or 3 1/8" jacks, can't remember, and left-right RCA jacks that I believe will do both input and output, as well as an Optical SPDIF output that will output PCM, Dolby Digital, DTS, and WMA-Pro. You will get 118 Db SNR on your line-in and 124 Db SNR ratio on your output I believe. And it doesn't get power through the motherboard, it gets it through a regular 4-pin power plug from your PSU, which will probably take care of the grounding issues and the 60Hz hum. I know this sounds like an ad, but I just wanted to lay out what you get with this card. I cant remember if it's $200 or $300. It was a christmas present. Anyway, I plan on DJing some with this card at community and church functions, as it will plug right into a Samick mixer board with no hassles. I just need to remember to keep the volume setting as low as possible, as it already has its own built-in amp. However, if you want to spend the money, you may be better off with a more professional solution that has a breakout box and lots of connections.
Tomorrow will take us away, far from home, no one will ever know our names, but the bard's song will remain....
dustyjamessutton
Gerbil XP
 
Posts: 370
Joined: Sun Sep 14, 2008 5:05 pm
Location: Midvale, Idaho

Re: Professional sound card for band recording

Postposted on Mon Apr 19, 2010 8:41 pm

dustyjamessutton wrote:When you get to the point that you want to record high-quality audio, consider the Asus Xonar Essence ST. I have one, and it has 1/4" input and output jacks, 2 or 3 1/8" jacks, can't remember, and left-right RCA jacks that I believe will do both input and output, as well as an Optical SPDIF output that will output PCM, Dolby Digital, DTS, and WMA-Pro. You will get 118 Db SNR on your line-in and 124 Db SNR ratio on your output I believe. And it doesn't get power through the motherboard, it gets it through a regular 4-pin power plug from your PSU, which will probably take care of the grounding issues and the 60Hz hum. I know this sounds like an ad, but I just wanted to lay out what you get with this card. I cant remember if it's $200 or $300. It was a christmas present. Anyway, I plan on DJing some with this card at community and church functions, as it will plug right into a Samick mixer board with no hassles. I just need to remember to keep the volume setting as low as possible, as it already has its own built-in amp. However, if you want to spend the money, you may be better off with a more professional solution that has a breakout box and lots of connections.


And oh crap, I just realize that this is an old thread from a month or two back, and I just resurrected it. Sorry guys.
Tomorrow will take us away, far from home, no one will ever know our names, but the bard's song will remain....
dustyjamessutton
Gerbil XP
 
Posts: 370
Joined: Sun Sep 14, 2008 5:05 pm
Location: Midvale, Idaho


Return to Echo Vale

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 3 guests