April 17, 2013 1:13 PM

I'm gradually trying to wean myself off of a hardware DAW (Yamaha AW2400) and onto a software one (Reaper). With a lot of great help from the estimable unSane I'm now sort of halfway there but am still relying on the (increasingly unstable...gulp) Yam if I need to use microphones. So......what sort of interface should I be using to be able to record mics on Reaper via on my laptop?

Running Wondows at the mo, but considering switching to a macbook. Views on that welcome too.

Should point out that I use a fairly high-quality valve (tube) mic for vocals and other pretty good mics (such as AKG c414) for acoustic guitars etc. SM57 normally for electric guitars. Pre-amp is a Focusrite ISA 0ne. Putting that lot through a quarter inch jack socket really isn't going to make the best of it?
posted by Hoops McCann (15 comments total)

How many inputs do you need at once? What is your price range?

I dream about this insane beauty, but it will always be from afar.
posted by umbĂș at 4:32 PM on April 17, 2013

You're in a good spot, Major. The fact that you have a nice tube mic means you don't need to worry about a tube preamp or anything like that.

Since you're recording one source at a time and you're a nut for quality, your rolls royce choice would probably be the Apogee Duet. They are stupidly expensive for what they are, but you will never second guess the sound quality. You can pick them up used pretty often.

I personally use a Tascam 1640, which is discontinued and has been replaced by either the 1800 if that's still available or something else. It is very nice because it has a ton of inputs and outputs, both balanced and unbalanced. So I can run inputs and outputs from my reel to reel, and mixer, and so on, without having to repatch. You would be able to keep your Yammy and a few microphones permanently wired in if you wantred. The preamps are very clean and it's built like a tank.

The Presonus stuff is also good and it's what the pros around here use. The Audiobox USB 2x2 is probably your cheapest good option but you can work up from there.
posted by unSane at 7:52 AM on April 18, 2013

(Oh, and since you already have a preamp you definitely want something that has balanced aux inputs so you don't have to go through another preamp)
posted by unSane at 7:54 AM on April 18, 2013

Very many thanks chaps - helpful as ever.
posted by Hoops McCann at 1:24 PM on April 18, 2013

I think the Duet requires a mac, fwiw.
posted by dubold at 4:56 AM on April 23, 2013

Well spotted. I had no idea.
posted by unSane at 8:34 PM on April 23, 2013

I'm on my third interface in 10 years, and I currently use the Akai EIE Pro. It's pretty cheap, delightfully easy to use, and sounds great to me. The four inputs were a little much i thought for just one-at-a-time recording, but now i use them all the time.
posted by l2p at 11:31 AM on April 27, 2013

All helpful stuff guys.

The other part of my question was about switching to a mac. I know nothing about macs, other than they're useful when it rains. What's the general view? Now... I have a suspicion that there is a degree of one-upmanship and snootiness that perhaps tends to skew discussions on this topic. Viewed from the outside (I'm not remotely interested in computers per se) mac users seem to me to see windows users as slightly farty losers. Personally, I'm always very wary of anything that smacks of group closure/elitism so.........what am I trying to say frank and don't be automatically down on Windows just 'cos it's uncool and the sort of thing your grandpa uses.

Personally I don't give a flying fuck whether it's Windows or Apple - I just want the best gear for music production!
posted by Hoops McCann at 12:08 PM on April 27, 2013

Eh, Mac vs. Windows is an imponderable IMO.

I've been a Mac guy since 1990 so I instinctively know how every little corner of them works. My sporadic forays into the world of Windows have not been happy ones but Windows 7 seems pretty good when I run it now and then.

I've been saying for a while though that I wouldn't choose *now* to buy into the Mac ecosystem. There are a bunch of reasons for this. The hardware is still nice, especially the laptops and the iMacs, but I feel like OS X is headed in the wrong direction (ie iOS) and the OS is getting less and less friendly to the power-user (and if you're recording audio in anything but Garageband, you're a defacto power user). I don't think this trend is likely to do anything but accelerate.

I'm not ready to jump ship but I've been actively investigating alternatives for a while now. Windows 8 looks like a train wreck, Linux has really cleaned up its act but still has shaky support for a lot of hardware and software, so I feel like I'm stuck in Apple land for the moment. But I can feel like the clock is ticking.

All the action in audio is currently on mobile platforms. The speed isn't there yet but Auria, for example, is fucking impressive. How the plugin architecture is going to work still has to shake out, but Audiobus is pointing a direction.

Apple are currently pouring all their resources into iOS. Logic hasn't seen a decent update for four years because the team has been working on a revamped iOS Garageband with a mixer etc.

So, I would stick with whatever platform you're comfortable with, but keep your eye on what is happening in tablets. My experience of multtracking on tablets using Auria was really very good -- much more like using a console or a portastudio. I'm certainly not at the point where I would do it in preference to Studio One on the Mac, but it's not as big a difference as you would think. The immediacy of it is very engaging.

Long story short: save your money.
posted by unSane at 8:41 PM on April 28, 2013 [1 favorite]

As a Scotsman, that's my favourite kind of story! Thanks for that.
posted by Hoops McCann at 12:16 PM on April 29, 2013

When I was trying to get windows machines to play nice with pro tools, I found it something of a pain... at the time there were a very specific set of components required. Meanwhile the mac was essentially plug and play. I switched to macs and have been really happy with them. After over a decade of use, I'm just happier with one - it's one less thing to think about, compatibility-wise. I imagine I could get used to using a pc, but haven't had to thus far, and so... I carry on. Even though I'm primarily using software other than PT these days.

if you're not already on the mac, you shouldn't feel like you MUST switch in order to get TOTALLY PRO results, or anything, but if I wanted a two channel setup that i knew would work really well, I would do a mac mini and a Duet. that would take up practically zero real estate.
posted by dubold at 11:36 AM on April 30, 2013

Echoing unSane here, pretty much on all points. I was a Windows dude for quite awhile but then one year I had some tax refund and bought a Mac Mini, mostly as an experiment. That was 7 years ago and I haven't looked back. The core audio architecture just works, and the only I miss on Windows is FL Studio.

All that said I do agree that the tablet market is going to get very interesting in the next few years.
posted by Doleful Creature at 12:22 AM on May 4, 2013

There is a rumour that the new Logic is out in three weeks (check comment #9 in this thread from a disgruntled Apple dev). If so, it could get interesting.
posted by unSane at 6:19 AM on May 4, 2013

Man, that disgruntled Apple dev comment...*squints* I really can't tell if that's a legit comment or just someone taking the piss. I hope it's real, four years is a long time and I'm starting to get tempted by Reaper...
posted by Doleful Creature at 5:57 PM on May 8, 2013

I jumped to Studio One about 18 months ago and haven't regretted it for an instant... except when I have to open Logic for a legacy project or something. The midi editing is still a lot better in Logic but overall, yikes, it feels really old and slow.
posted by unSane at 6:03 PM on May 8, 2013

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