Powerbook : Audio In
July 24, 2006 8:25 AM   Subscribe

I'd like to record music (multiple synths, mics, etc.) with my Powerbook, which has one 1/8 input. Should I run everything through a mixer, and run the mixer out directly to the Powerbook in? Or should I run the mixer out to something like a MAudio firewire box?

Essentially I'd like to know if there is a great benefit in not using the Mac onboard sound card. This is on the last revised G4 Powerbook.
posted by four panels to Media & Arts (4 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
it depends on what you want to do with the final recording. if you want/need independent access to the different tracks/instruments, you should definitely use the MAudio box. The input on the Powerbooks is good, quality-wise, so if that is the only issue then I say save your money.
posted by casconed at 8:30 AM on July 24, 2006

Noise is an issue with the onboard sound adapter. You can use it for performances if you're doing electronic or DJ work. For classical or other noise-sensitive applications, you'll want a different sound adapter.

USB sound adapters are less noisy but most suffer latency and stability problems. They are cheap, though, which is always a plus. I don't recommend them, but if your budget calls for it, this is an option.

PCMCIA ("PC Card") sound adapters are a possibility, but given the price, you would be buying a piece of hardware you'll never be able to use in a future laptop now that the PCMCIA interface has shrunken. I really don't recommend investment here.

Buy a Firewire sound adapter. You'll get:

• a portable sound adapter
• bus power (pulls power from your Mac, so you don't need a "wall-wart" AC adapter)
• lots more clean inputs and outputs (than USB, at least)
• you can plug it into all kinds of computers you'll use and upgrade to in the future

Examples include:

• MOTU Traveler
• TASCAM FW-1082
• Edirol FA-66
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 8:39 AM on July 24, 2006

I'll second Blazecock here -- the external adapter will sound better, both on input and output.

For recording multiple tracks, however, you may be limited by the speed of the internal HD -- it's probably 5400rpm. And you may need a multitrack recording application such as MOTU Digital Performer, Logic, or ProTools. GarageBand will work as a starter, though I don't know if it can record more than one track at a time. I think Audacity (free) can handle multiple simultaneous inputs, but I have found it frustrating to use.
posted by omnidrew at 9:13 AM on July 24, 2006

If you're recording the audio (or playing it back, for that matter) for any other purposes than "I'm recording this business meeting" or "I'm listening to internet radio at work", then yes, don't use the native audio on a laptop.

How you do this depends a *lot* on how much you want to spend.

You could get a Mackie Onyx mixer, which has analog inputs and really nice mic pre's, and will feed the mix out to your computer as Firewire, or you could get a MOTU (or similar) input box, that will bring each analog source in as a separate channel on a firewire link -- requiring the appropriate software to capture, but making later mixdown possible, or as several people have noted, you can mix analog, and bring the mixed signal in through a one-channel audio-firewire adapter.

In this last case, you'll probably have to select your hardware a bot more carefully; there are 'consumer' devices in that market space, which will have less impressive audio specs than the pro gear.
posted by baylink at 10:24 AM on July 24, 2006

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