Home Recording Studio Forum - building a home recording studio

Home music recording - How to record at home.

Setting up your home recording studio for a fraction of the cost.

A series of Articles on Basic Home Recording

Permission to reprint / edit has been granted. Please note: Some of the articles printed here are an abridged version of the articles Jim presented to the Sharesong songwriters group.

Part 3 - Standalone Recorders
Part 4 - Intro to PC Recording
Part 5a - Audio software - freeware / shareware
Part 6 - Introduction to Multitrack Recording
Part 7 - Audio Recording Software
Part 8 - Sound cards - Input Basics
Part 9 - Microphone Inline Preamps
Part 10 - Microphone Essentials
Part 11 - How To Choose a Microphone

Part 3 - Standalone Recorders

As we start looking at equipment we have to remember beginning with the end in mind. Do we want to produce a commercial grade CD, a simple project demo or a scratchpad for ideas. This is really important because there are a variety of options out there for recording platforms and media. For the sake of space and since we are just looking at the absolute basics we will touch on standalone and pc recording platforms in basic generic terms. This installment is on standalone systems. The 2 basic types of standalones we will look at are cassette and Digital Audio Workstations (DAW).

The original and most popular standalone for multi-track home recording is the cassette multi-track deck. You may hear these referred to as port-a-studios.

[ Note from Ray: I started off making demos 20 years ago with a Portastudio 244 and it was great. Believe it or not I've still got it and I use it as the mixer for my current set up! If you can get one real cheap - like a couple of hundred bucks - then you might find it useful. These days though I'd really prefer to go digital if I was starting out. ]

These are the simplest of all of the units mainly because most folks are aware of how a cassette deck works and are not intimidated by the technology. There are simple units that can record 2 to 8 simultaneous tracks onto a ¼" inch cassette tape. It is kind of cliché' to say this, but the Beatles Sgt. Peppers album was recorded on a tape 4-tracker, as were many other albums. Granted the media and equipment was different, but the reality is the concept and how it works is the same. These cassette port-a-studios are easy to use and were the choice of many songwriters because of the price, anywhere from $99 to $600. The biggest drawback to these units was their track limitations and the noise that tape generates naturally. Some of the higher end decks addressed these issues with Dolby and double speed recording and have built in mixers.

Here links to the 2 units I have owned and used and think very highly of:

The second option is the DAW. These units are the next generation of port-a-studios. These DAWs offer much more flexibility than there cassette ancestors. Prices range from $200 to $2500. The biggest benefit is the digital format. Much more quiet, midi capable, onboard effects processors. The only real drawback to these units is the technology is evolving so fast that these units sometimes are built and shipped with technological flaws causing intermittent lock ups and sometimes loss of data. When you get into the higher end units and then studio grade units they have computer interfaces that will allow for downloadable firmware updates to address issues. The cheaper units usually need to be sent in for firmware updates at the factory. In this arena you really get what you pay for. Having said that though there are many time tested units like the Roland BR-1180 seen here among other DAWS. Tascam 788:

Before purchasing always research the manufactures support websites and user forums this is a good way to learn what is good and what is not.

Part 4 - Intro to PC Recording

Recording on the home PC is the ultimate value for the buck. With a pc you can record as many tracks as your system can handle.

Every recording (pro audio) application and pro audio hardware will have certain system requirements. It is important before purchasing or downloading demo software that you seek out these requirements on the manufactures website and make sure your system is compatible. Always check user forums and support FAQ and issues pages. .......Most new to pc recording users would avoid numerous frustrations if they just followed this advice. Honestly I wish I would have known that before I started in pc recording, I wouldn't have wasted so much money and time.

What you need to use for pc recording is a pc, a soundcard, an audio recording application, an input device ie a microphone and an output device ie speakers. Since almost everyone reading this has a pc you can see the value in pc recording especially when starting out in home recording. The benefit here is you can learn how to use what you have before making any purchases, thus giving you the added knowledge and experience needed to make good decisions.

Here is some basic information you should know about your pc before doing anything else at this point:

1. What operating system (os) and what version: Win95, Win98, etc.
2. What processor and speed: Celeron 1.2, P3 850, P4 1.6, AMD Xp 1.8, etc
3. What kind of memory and how much: RDRAM 512MB, DDR 128MB, SDRAM 1GB, etc.
4. Who is the manufacture and model of my soundcard: Soundblaster PCI128, etc (almost all pc soundcards are made by third party companies like Creative Labs)

In the next installment we will look at simple desktop stereo (2-track) audio recording using the absolute basics to get a baseline understanding of how it all works.

Basic Home Recording ©2003 by Jim Goodman. All rights reserved. You may download and reproduce entire document only for non-commercial purposes providing this copyright exists on all copies. All other uses require a written request to jgoodman@alltel.net or thru http://psalm149.com