My new home recording… studio?
March 16, 2009 1 Comment
Whatever… it’s cheap, but it’s my studio anyway! It’s been some time since I’ve composed my latest song. I’m a man of more hobbies than I can handle, I know. Gamer, programmer and wannabe musician too. (Not to mention I’m a father and husband too. :-)) I can’t play well any instrument, but I compose my songs with acoustic guitar, ideas, chords and my weak voice. The desire to have my own recording studio – even the modest one – is pretty old. Nowadays you can acquire the needed stuff for literally a few bucks. My whole recording chain with both guitars with notebook included (but not bought for that reason) is around 1300€ – I’m sure you can do the same or better under 1000€ (or maybe even under $1000, as prices here in Slovakia are rather higher). I’ve got two guitars, I’ve got Midi keyboard, some microphone too… the last piece of the puzzle I really wanted was a mixing console.
Of course, you can probably live without it with overdubbing yourself in the DAW (Digital Audio Workstation software) – but there are few good reasons to have a real mixer. I have one microphone input on my old Audigy sound card. I’ve bought converter from big jack (6.3mm) to small one, mono (not common in every shop, I assure you :-)). First, the jack connector on my sound card was stressed more and I had to crawl under my desk every time I wanted to change microphone for guitar. Should I go for extension cable? Hell no! Buy a mixer and manage all your inputs there. Now I can also record voice from dynamic microphone and guitar from condenser microphone at once too! (No, stop telling me I could hack stereo line-in for that! :-)) Real mixer has also better pre-amps for sure. I went for really affordable Behringer XENYX 1202FX and I’m more than happy, believe me.
Mixing console Behringer XENYX 1202FX
While mixer (and a bunch of cables) was the last piece of the hardware puzzle, there was one more thing to decide. The software. So called “Digital Audio Workstation”. While I used Audacity before, it has few disadvantages (and even more pops out when you learn what the real DAW is). I’ll name two for all – it can’t mix audio and MIDI tracks and it doesn’t come with ASIO support – although it is ASIO-capable and you can build it with it. Even as skilled Linux user I refused to do that when there is one better alternative – REAPER! I tried Reason first, I liked the sound (don’t beat me, it was the first proper synth I used after Audigy built-in wavetable :-))… but I wanted to try more, not to mention I wasn’t sure I can afford it. So I tried FL Studio demo version too. I nearly even bought it – and if you like it don’t hesitate because it has great live-time upgrade policy (LOVE that!). But I’ve found it difficult to use with MIDI – pitch or modulation wheel did not work right out of the box for instance. I also didn’t like the overall interface to be honest, but that’s probably rather personal. Reason – on the other hand – reportedly isn’t good if you want to record voices too. I could import WAV, but I didn’t find the way how to record it directly into the Reason.
I wanted ONE software solution to manage my project and then Reaper got onto my radar. Software that reminded me Audacity in terms of multi-track recording, with ASIO support for low latencies, awesome with treating audio and MIDI tracks the same way when possible – but with built-in MIDI editor (piano roll), good built-in plugins, VST support, you name it! With installer not bigger than 4 MB. Yes, mega, not giga. I really was skeptical at the start, but Reaper simply convinced me. And if you want to record normal true audio/vocal/acoustic (metal/rock/whatever) music, you should give Reaper a try. Yeah, and it’s cheap – only $50 for personal use, $225 for commercial use, but you can try it for 30 days officially and even more unofficially if you’re not convinced. I’m not sure I’ll pay right away after 30 days, but… I guess so. Somehow I like it and I can’t see any reason why not to support it.
Try this for 10 random Reaper screen-shots
Now you know why (aside from other reasons) I’ve been a bit inactive recently on my blog. Real life stuff, that’s it. I’ll definitely get back to this topic in future posts. Do I do anything else as well? Yes, I even played PWI on Saturday. 🙂 However, I have a lot of stuff to learn now because once you record yourself, you’ll probably find out a lot of things to improve. Even if you don’t take yourself seriously.