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Budget home guitar studio.


redscott

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Hi all, I have played guitar for a long time but purely with amps and pedals etc, but good amp tones often mean high volume valve amps (which is not great for home use) and I know guitar simulation software has come along way in recent years, so I am looking for good advice on what to buy to start this route. I am looking for an audio interface for guitar and bass as well as some decent monitors so I can mess around with software like guitar rig and amplitube etc while flirting with recording. I have around £300/$500 to spend (maybe a bit more).

 

The problem I have looking around for audio interfaces is that I want a quality interface but without bells and whistles which I do not need (since im not recording vocals, and I don't really need midi I/O either). Often models without the aforementioned functionality are just poor in general, i.e. have poor bit rate and frequency, can anyone recommend a decent interface? (I am currently considering the m-audio fast track c400 and tascam US-322 - although they both still seem somewhat overkill).

 

I know there are many guitar orientated interfaces out there, but I can't help but be suspicious of alot of them since they often lack basic functionality which are on "normal" audio interfaces (they often only have volume knobs and thats it). However if anyone has good experiences with these I would love to hear about it.

 

For monitors I am currently looking at a pair of KRK G2 rokit RP5's (£200/$320) or M Audio BX5 D2's (£150/$240) - I have no experience with monitors but looking around on the net for a few days has given me an abstract idea of what I should be looking for, I think, so advice here would be really appreciated too.

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Depending on your price point and what you may be using for recording software you may wish to consider an Apogee Duet for recording. But perhaps I should ask first, will you be using a Mac or a PC?

 

If you can find a pair of used ADAM 7s at a reasonable price, they make a very nice powered monitor as well.

 

If you do have a Mac, of course GarageBand comes bundled and is a good place to start.

Silver Circle Audio | Roon | Devialet | Synology | Vivid Audio | Stillpoint Aperture | Auralic | DH Labs

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Hi Redscott,

 

I have something you might be interested in. I was just looking at it today and thinking about selling it. I think it's the kind of thing you want. (I've played guitar most of my life too by the way).

 

It's a Cakewalk UA-4FX. It's 24bit/96 khz. It's USB capture, has Guitar and Mic inputs plus various others. It also includes effects. You can probably find out more about it on line or you can PM me, if you want more info or whatever.

 

Chris

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Hi redscott,

 

What Chris (above) suggested is a nice option. I would like to add a word of caution though as you are going to use monitors. When you strike the the strings of your guitar (especially upon "impact"), this can cause quite extreme excursion of a regular loudspeaker. The loudspeaker-units in guitar-amps are designed to handle this excursion because they are very stiff and therefore are compressing the output by nature. Regular monitors/loudspeakers are not.

 

I have no experience with the software you mentioned, and maybe they have some kind of built-in protection to compress output by default, but I would make sure compression is on, otherwise you may have to look for new monitors after your first power-chord at higher volume...

 

Peter

“We are the Audiodrones. Lower your skepticism and surrender your wallets. We will add your cash and savings to our own. Your mindset will adapt to service us. Resistance is futile.” - (Quote from Star Trek: The Audiophile Generation)

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Emotiva Airmotiv 4s are on sale right now for $299/pr with free shipping - I've been very pleased with the company and their products. The KRKs and Ms are both fine speakers as well. While it's true that you can't use most live sound reinforcement or monitor speakers for live guitar amplification, I assume you'll be playing through your amp if you want live volume as well - and you might find that miking your amp gives you a tone you like on recordings. You can monitor in real time with the speakers in question, and you can achieve pretty high near-field SPLs with them (although you won't fool anyone into thinking it's a Boogie or Marshall stack).

 

I've used many ADCs over the years and have been very happy with Tascams. I've had a US-1800 (which is more than you want) since they came out a few years ago. But I was happy with prior M-Audio units too. I still have a Midiman unit that's mighty fine.

 

And I still record with Audacity after having gone through several highly rated packages. It's easy, it's reliable and it works great for us simple guitar players.

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Hi all, thanks for the tips and advice. Thesurfingalien, thanks for the warning, i will look into it, although I havn't heard any problems like that happening.

 

bluesman, what sort of latency have you got with usb units such as the ones youve mentioned? Latency is probably my main concern, I have an ok spec pc (i3 2120 cpu, 4gb ram) which I think should handle things fine, but I was also wondering about PCI cards, since I know the latency of PCI is alot less than usb - although I have heard newer usb 2.0 interfaces are pretty good latency wise (are there any usb 3.0 units?).

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These seem to be the hot new monitors:

 

JBL LSR305 5" Active Studio Monitor | Sweetwater.com

 

Another gentleman on the forum is going with these (though he hasn't gotten them yet), but they make a lot of sense because:

1. They use an advanced waveguide (borrowed from the top of the line M2s) which measure well on and off axis;

2. They go fairly low for a monitor of that size;

3. They look really cool.

 

http://www.computeraudiophile.com/f8-general-forum/computer-speakers-18771/#post284683

Flac audio (MBP) to miniDSP 10x10 running REW and active crossovers to ADCOM GFA 555 and 2 QSC GX5's (Tri Amped). Using Paradigm Studio 100 V.2 Speakers modded for the Active Crossover and stereo Velodyne HGS12 subwoofers.

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Hi all, thanks for the tips and advice. Thesurfingalien, thanks for the warning, i will look into it, although I havn't heard any problems like that happening.

 

bluesman, what sort of latency have you got with usb units such as the ones youve mentioned? Latency is probably my main concern, I have an ok spec pc (i3 2120 cpu, 4gb ram) which I think should handle things fine, but I was also wondering about PCI cards, since I know the latency of PCI is alot less than usb - although I have heard newer usb 2.0 interfaces are pretty good latency wise (are there any usb 3.0 units?).

No problems at all - USB works fine for me.

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Those monitors look really good actually alexwgoody and they are available at a shop I shop at, I will give them some consideration.

 

Good to know bluesman, I think I may just bite the bullet and get an M-audio fast track C400, it seems to have mostly good reviews.

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Those monitors look really good actually alexwgoody and they are available at a shop I shop at, I will give them some consideration.

 

Good to know bluesman, I think I may just bite the bullet and get an M-audio fast track C400, it seems to have mostly good reviews.

 

If you can listen to them, I'd love to hear your thoughts. I've still yet to hear them personally, though I am looking for a pair. Knowing JBL, they are built on very sound engineering principles, and I've got to imagine that this new waveguide shape will pop up in more of their higher end monitors soon.

Flac audio (MBP) to miniDSP 10x10 running REW and active crossovers to ADCOM GFA 555 and 2 QSC GX5's (Tri Amped). Using Paradigm Studio 100 V.2 Speakers modded for the Active Crossover and stereo Velodyne HGS12 subwoofers.

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Thesurfingalien, thanks for the warning, i will look into it, although I havn't heard any problems like that happening.

 

Hi redscott,

 

Well, I learned it the hard way, luckily for me with very cheap speakers. The voice-coil of the woofer was pushed out so far it got stuck, and consequently the voice-coil burned out.

 

If you try to move the cone of the speaker(s) in your guitar-amp, you will feel quite a bit of resistance, and the back and forward movement is quite limited. Try the same with the cone of a woofer in a regular loudspeaker, and you will notice it is much easier to move the cone, and it moves quite a bit further.

 

If you would play music over your guitar-amp, you will notice is has little bass and sounds pretty bad in general; that is the natural compression of the loudspeaker doing it's work.

 

I suppose when you only play at low volume it will not be a problem, but caution should be taken anyway...

 

Kind regards,

Peter

“We are the Audiodrones. Lower your skepticism and surrender your wallets. We will add your cash and savings to our own. Your mindset will adapt to service us. Resistance is futile.” - (Quote from Star Trek: The Audiophile Generation)

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Hi redscott,

 

Well, I learned it the hard way, luckily for me with very cheap speakers. The voice-coil of the woofer was pushed out so far it got stuck, and consequently the voice-coil burned out.

 

 

I stole my dad's 18 inch Velodyne when I was 12 and did the same - he was not happy.

Flac audio (MBP) to miniDSP 10x10 running REW and active crossovers to ADCOM GFA 555 and 2 QSC GX5's (Tri Amped). Using Paradigm Studio 100 V.2 Speakers modded for the Active Crossover and stereo Velodyne HGS12 subwoofers.

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I think you may be right thesurfingalien, when you suggested that guitar programmes protect this from happening, you will have to excuse my absolute n00bness when it comes to questions of audio signals and whatnot, but would I be right in suggesting that a guitar straight into a guitar amp is an unbalanced signal (thus the amp differs from speakers in the way you suggested), whereas when a guitar is processed by an audio interface into a software solution and back again the audio signal isn't like the aforementioned signal path?

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Balanced/unbalanced has nothing to do with it. Most audio systems use unbalanced cabling but not all. Balanced cabling is good for microphones and long distance runs. Here's a link about balanced audio.

 

Chris

 

Yeah I didn't think I had got what I was trying to say right, hopefully someone will explain, I have been using guitar software and been around guitar software forums for close to 6 years and have never heard of the problem thesurfingalien pointed out. Just curious really.

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Yeah I didn't think I had got what I was trying to say right, hopefully someone will explain, I have been using guitar software and been around guitar software forums for close to 6 years and have never heard of the problem thesurfingalien pointed out. Just curious really.

There's really no comparison between the speakers in a guitar amp and those in most audio systems. I don't think that thesurfingalien's correct about the reason audio systems can't take the heat but speakers in guitar amps can ("...they are very stiff and therefore are compressing the output by nature". The stiffer the piston, the less compression and distortion it imparts - that's why the latest drivers have very stiff cones. Even vintage paper cones are pretty stiff, but they do deform when compressed by the voice coil. This adds distortion ("cone breakup") that's desirable to a blues or rock guitarist but the enemy of jazz, pedal steel and surf guitarists.

 

Look at the excursion of a low E string on a guitar when plucked - it's a longer throw at low volumes than the maximum excursion of many small speaker cones. It's not surprising that amplifying a guitar through an audio speaker will push the voice coil beyond its maximum excursion. The same speaker will have just as much trouble reproducing well recorded guitar at the same SPL the guitar generated at the mic. If you push it and your amp is up to the task, you'll hear the VC knocking as it reaches its limits. And in general, the more efficient a speaker is, the shorter its excursion.

 

The magnets and voice coils on all but the cheapest guitar speakers are huge by comparison. Speaker breakup and compression are phenomena limited to vintage speakers (old ones and new ones made to old specs). My JBL D120 has an 11 pound magnet and a 4" voice coil, and my 2 Bag End drivers have 20 pound magnets with even bigger VC. Very few audio speakers have motors that big - they simply can't take the heat and mechanical punishment of live guitar at levels beyond quiet.

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Thats very interesting bluesman, I will post this topic on a dedicated guitar software forum, see if this has happened to anyone. Perhaps, then, if I were to use guitar software the best output solution would be either into a "line in" on an amp (i.e. where, on some amps, they have inputs for cd players/mp3 players) or buying a power amp and using the software as a preamp and put that through a guitar cab?

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So I have used LOGIC and other guitar recording software for quite some time, as well as things like the LINE6 stuff into my home computer. I have used things such as a Apogee DUET for the A/D conversion into my Mac. I have a set of ADAM 7 powered speakers connected to the setup. I have had no issues with either the speakers nor headphones in terms of practicing or recording bass, guitar, keyboards into the system and having them playback. Granted not at concert level volume. I have also been in the control room of studios which use monitors to listen to playback of live guitar, drums, bass being recorded. Granted the monitors in the control room are at times larger in size then what you might put in a home studio.

 

Regardless, I don't think you are at any risk of damaging the speakers save if you play them "too" loud. But perhaps as you noted checking in with some guitar forums is the best solution for guidance.

 

And to be clear, if I was rehearsing with a band I would not play my guitar or bass through a system such as this.

 

Barr

Silver Circle Audio | Roon | Devialet | Synology | Vivid Audio | Stillpoint Aperture | Auralic | DH Labs

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Thats very interesting bluesman, I will post this topic on a dedicated guitar software forum, see if this has happened to anyone. Perhaps, then, if I were to use guitar software the best output solution would be either into a "line in" on an amp (i.e. where, on some amps, they have inputs for cd players/mp3 players) or buying a power amp and using the software as a preamp and put that through a guitar cab?

I may have misunderstood you - you shouldn't use an audio system in lieu of a guitar amp. If you're only using the audio system to monitor your recording, you're fine (as long as you don't try to achieve higher SPLs than your system will generate). The commonest way people screw up their speakers is trying to play live through an audio system along with a recording - they get carried away, start turning everything up, and all of a sudden get nothing but a pffffft and the smell of overheated lacquer!

 

Just don't use your audio system instead of a guitar amp (except at very low volumes) and you'll be fine. If you hear any voice coil knocking or other sounds suggesting a mechanical problem, back off on the volume or use headphones to monitor. The sound of a voice coil knocking is unmistakable - the first time I did it to one of my speakers, I thought something had fallen on our roof (I was driving a pair of Rogers LS3/5as with my then-new Hafler 500 amp and got a little carried away...)

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As others have said the problem is playing too loud through your stereo. And that's pretty obvious really, but...,

 

Because good audio systems sound so clean it's easy to want to turn them up, to, if nothing else, get a more real and dirty sound. They just don't sound loud enough even when they're quite loud in terms of decibel levels. On a guitar amp it's easy to get a "loud" sound at a low volume, not so on a stereo.

 

The other thing to watch out for is unexpected transients, noise, etc. When you're plugging and unplugging the instruments, feedback, meter levels and so on. Just make sure everything is turned down until you're all set, then turn your playback system up slowly.

 

Chris

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The other thing to watch out for is unexpected transients, noise, etc.

And the most common noise that blows speakers is the sound that accompanies plugging and unplugging your guitar cord into your guitar. Either use a self-shorting plug like a Guyatone Speed Cable or get out of the habit of unplugging your guitar while connected to a hot amp.

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Just don't use your audio system instead of a guitar amp (except at very low volumes) and you'll be fine.

 

This is basically what im thinking, the set up im planning is purely for home recording and playing around with fx, I don't plan to crank the volume, I do have a question though, I was thinking of skipping the monitors for a pair of studio headphones, in terms of this discussion are there similar risks using headphones as there is with using monitors? Also as mentioned earlier would a greater size speaker in monitors help play at a "normal" volume without risk?

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I think you would be fine with either headphones or a good set of monitors. If I might offer a suggestion, if there is a music store nearby, perhaps it would make sense to drop in and try such a setup yourself so you get a relative feel for what the acceptable range of volume is, I think you may find, depending on budget that it is more than suitable for home recording purposes. Depending too on the type of music establishments nearby, ofttimes they also have used gear available as well.

 

Also if you plan to record as well, it is worth trying out a few of the available packages as well as learning what effects, amp simulations, et al that they offer. While there is much one can learn on the Internet, visiting and purchasing from a local merchant can offer many advantages at times.

 

Just a thought.

 

Barr

Silver Circle Audio | Roon | Devialet | Synology | Vivid Audio | Stillpoint Aperture | Auralic | DH Labs

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This is basically what im thinking, the set up im planning is purely for home recording and playing around with fx, I don't plan to crank the volume, I do have a question though, I was thinking of skipping the monitors for a pair of studio headphones, in terms of this discussion are there similar risks using headphones as there is with using monitors? Also as mentioned earlier would a greater size speaker in monitors help play at a "normal" volume without risk?

 

A greater size speaker wouldn't necessarily make a difference. Power input ratings would matter to some degree, but then efficiency comes into play. Bottom line, as mentioned above, if you're playing your guitar through the system, be careful.

 

As to headphones, it depends. I've blown out a pair of good quality headphones, so it is possible to do so. Again be careful with volume levels before everything is plugged in and ready to go. And be careful of your ears as well as the headphones.

 

Chris

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