A simple PC audio recording set up
November 15, 2007 10:24 PM   Subscribe

Using a no-frills but decent PC, what (cheapish) sound card and what software should I buy for my father so he can record his guitar playing and singing as well as do basic mixing and editing?

My dad has played guitar all of his life and has done a lot of recording to cassette tapes. I know he has decent microphones, etc, but I really think he would enjoy recording his music onto the PC so he can have greater-than-cassette quality and an easier way to put things to CD or e-mail mp3s.

I have no experience with recording sound, however, and don't even know where to begin discerning between good and bad sound cards.

Furthermore, my dad is in his 50s and he is pretty good with computers but certainly has never done any sound mixing or editing type stuff on a PC. What software is capable, but not overly complicated?

Looking to spend less than $100 on the card, and I don't even know what to plan for the software so I guess anything is game. ...(within reason).
posted by ztdavis to Media & Arts (6 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Instead of getting a sound card, he probably ought to consider getting a USB audio interface. An Edirol UA-1EX is pretty cheap (definitely less than $100), and will give him RCA inputs which he can run from his mixer or amp. It's what I use to record my radio show, and it's little, cheap and works great.

As far as software goes, Audacity is a little less stable and easy to use than some of the other options, but it's way more free :). The difference in difficulty should be minimal.
posted by YoungAmerican at 10:55 PM on November 15, 2007

Yeah, you don't want to use most PC soundcards for this... nearly all of them do a 48khz internal resample, which screws with fidelity. It's still better than cassette, but is very suboptimal.

The Creative X-Fi can be set, with some effort, to record in 44.1Khz native. You have to put it into Audio Creation Mode and then turn on 'bitperfect recording' on the rather dauntingly complex control panel.

Otherwise, the Edirol that YoungAmerican mentions would probably do a good job. It's cheap and should work in 44.1Khz native.

To do this really WELL, you'd probably want to get into higher-end stuff, $500 to $600, but even the little Edirol will be way, way better than cassette tapes.
posted by Malor at 11:08 PM on November 15, 2007

Hard disk recorders might be worth looking at. It's a pretty cheap solution but it wont let you do much in the way of post processing. It's interface is similar looks similar to the tape four tracks, so if he's used those before, this might be a natural transition.
posted by doctor_negative at 11:17 PM on November 15, 2007

Software can be had for cheap or free. It's really the hardware that you need. And you really don't need much, like this simple USB interface. It can be found for under 150.
posted by bigmusic at 11:58 PM on November 15, 2007

On the software side, I'll cast a vote for Reaper. It's uncrippled, non-expiring shareware, but if you use it for more than 30 days, you should kick in the $50 to register it.

On the hardware side, here are a bunch of reasonably priced usb interfaces. Note that some of them may come with software (Cubase LE) included.
posted by tdismukes at 7:36 AM on November 16, 2007 [1 favorite]

I use this guy:


4 in 4 out, low latency, 24bit 192khz recording. 99 bucks

nthing Audacity on the free tip, or Cubase if you want to drop some dough
posted by stenseng at 4:34 PM on November 16, 2007

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