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Audio-book recording - simple audio interface needed??

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Audio-book recording - simple audio interface needed??

Postby Skibobber » Tue Feb 22, 2011 11:39 pm

Hi all. I have spent so many hours now surfing the net for information and read so much I am more confused than I was when I started out 3 days ago. I realise now that compared to some, I have very basic needs, and feel overwhelmed with the specifications and terminology connected with recording and whole music industry.

I simply want to upgrade my desktop PC to cope better with my recordings (all speech). The operating system I propose to use will be Windows 7, but I am seriously considering sticking with Windows XP so I can continue using my old equipment... but my son would probably pull his hair out at this suggestion!

Firstly, I only ever record my voice using a condenser mic. I only ever add one track of music to this stored on my PC, using a very basic Magix Music Maker software package that I understand, and can edit well with. The music I add has been bought with a license for this purpose, so everything is legal and above board.

When I have finished recording and editing, I make a master cd, and also convert the WAV files to mp3 format for download sales.
At present I am using a Tascam US-122 Audio interface, which works on a 1: usb port and Windows XP.

I listen to the recording through simple PC headphones, plugged into the output of the Audio interface, and the recording is in MONO (so you hear the same thing in both ears like an audio book).

But, (and this where I need help) my Tascam Audio interface is not compatible with Windows 7 or USB 2, which I am lead to believe is what new PCs will be fitted with. (I usually buy from Dell so can pick what I want to some degree). So I now need to buy a new USB Audio interface around the £100 mark.

I am lost, there are so many conflicting reviews, and too much technical jargon for me to get my 57year old head round!

Do I go for the Tascam US-122 MK2 (which has Windows 7 drivers) or look for something else now I am upgrading.
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Re: Audio-book recording - simple audio interface needed??

Postby shufflebeat » Wed Feb 23, 2011 12:34 am

Welcome, Ski.

Does your condenser mic require phantom power or does it have a battery inside? If it has a battery it's not relying on external (phantom) power from the interface. I've just been looking at a 'fast track usb' on ebay at 20 quid with about 18 hrs to go. I use one with the laptop when travelling. Couldn't be simpler.
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Re: Audio-book recording - simple audio interface needed??

Postby Gary M » Wed Feb 23, 2011 2:08 am

Skibobber wrote:
But, (and this where I need help) my Tascam Audio interface is not compatible with Windows 7 or USB 2, which I am lead to believe is what new PCs will be fitted with. (I usually buy from Dell so can pick what I want to some degree). So I now need to buy a new USB Audio interface around the £100 mark.

it will work fine with USB2 it just does not require usb 2 for operation.

windows 7 is not supported, this does not mean that it wont work. give it a try with the vista drivers, you may find it works fine.

regards

Gary
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Postby The Elf » Wed Feb 23, 2011 8:28 am

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Re: Audio-book recording - simple audio interface needed??

Postby The Elf » Wed Feb 23, 2011 9:15 am

The Elf wrote:You come across as being genuinely driven and passionate about what you do, but...

Huh?

I didn't post this reply to this thread, and even though it's only just appeared it says I can't edit or delete it!

Can mod do the honours and remove these two posts for me?

Thank you Steve!
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Re: Audio-book recording - simple audio interface needed??

Postby ef37a » Wed Feb 23, 2011 12:24 pm

I have a US144 mk1 and that setup ok on W7/64 and it is the same driver pack that is used for the 122 so yes, give it a go!

But in truth both XP and the Tascams are bit long in the tooth now and I would certainly urge an upgrade to W7 (and 64 bit as well, seems never to mind my old 32bit hard and software!) For a new AI the Focusrite Saffire 6usb seems to be taking all the honours at the moment and of course will be bang up for Seven. Then the little Mackie AI looked good, so long as you don't need MIDI.

You can then get a monster hard drive for the old pc and network the two and you have a nice backup system.

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Re: Audio-book recording - simple audio interface needed??

Postby The Elf » Wed Feb 23, 2011 12:44 pm

I use a USB mic plugged stright into my laptop for quick 'n' dirty recording on the move. Mine is actually a stereo mic, but you can get mono ones too. It's as simple as it gets - no levels to worry about, no phantom power requirement, no frills... and no monitoring either, but that shouldn't be an issue for recording spoken word. It really is a case of plug in, fire up the software and hit 'record'.

But I'd try your current gear with Win7, since you've nothing to lose - I've had a lot of luck with this. It's more the 32/64-bit difference that's likely to trip you up.
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Re: Audio-book recording - simple audio interface needed??

Postby ef37a » Wed Feb 23, 2011 2:00 pm

When you say "upgrade the pc" do you mean a new machine or installing W7 on the existing one?

If at all possible I would go for a new pc but IMHExp if you have to upgrade the old one get at least 2G of ram in it. My HP W7 machine has 2G and less than 1/2 of that is "available"(according to Task Manager, about as much as I know of such things!) whereas this XP pc (WMCE ekchully!) has 1.2G of 2G free. You can only use a bit over 3G with a 32bit system anyway, vastly more with 64 bits but I doubt that will matter at all for your present application.

But, don't go by me! Study the words of Mr Walker on such matters.

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Re: Audio-book recording - simple audio interface needed??

Postby Skibobber » Wed Feb 23, 2011 10:25 pm

Thanks all for your help, much appreciate it. By "upgrade" I mean a completely new PC, 4 GB Ram, Intel i5 or i7. The old PC which is cobbled together and a hand-me-down from one of my sons is dying a death under the weight of the software and hardware and all the sound files. When I am recording and editing most of my time is spent waiting for the PC to catch-up, and for the screen to un-freeze!
As you have said, if I’m buying new and have windows 7 installed I suppose I don’t have anything to lose by trying to use the old equipment anyway, before I replace it. I was just trying to ascertain what the final cost outlay may be. And, if there was a better Audio Interface to consider for the same price as the Tascam, as this was my first and only purchase of such a product.
As for MIDI, I know it exists, I can see things on the interface that read MIDI but I don’t have a clue what it is, what it means or what it does, so I mustn’t be using it or needing it!
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Re: Audio-book recording - simple audio interface needed??

Postby Skibobber » Wed Feb 23, 2011 10:32 pm

shufflebeat wrote:Welcome, Ski.

Does your condenser mic require phantom power or does it have a battery inside? If it has a battery it's not relying on external (phantom) power from the interface. I've just been looking at a 'fast track usb' on ebay at 20 quid with about 18 hrs to go. I use one with the laptop when travelling. Couldn't be simpler.

Yes it requires Phantom power, no battery. I cannot have any machinery in the room with me, the fan on any PC/laptop is too noisy, so the PC is outside of the recording room, with long leads to the monitor, keyboard, mic, mouse and speakers!
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Re: Audio-book recording - simple audio interface needed??

Postby ef37a » Wed Feb 23, 2011 11:08 pm

Long lead on the MIC! Skib'?

Unless you have the pc a very long way away you should be able to have the AI in the room with you and run a usb lead to the pc. I have a 5mtr run of not particularly high quality usb cable going to my ZED10 and in the past that setup had a Behringer BCA 2000 hung on it and they were fussy B's!

If you do find the 122 a problem on W7 I would urge you to look for an interface with a good, low noise mic amp in, it you obviously need a very low noise floor. The Saffire pres are said to be some of the best. TBH I would not have thought the 122 that good for your application even with a capacitor mic but input noise can vary sample to sample and you might just have struck lucky!

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Re: Audio-book recording - simple audio interface needed??

Postby Skibobber » Thu Feb 24, 2011 8:20 am

I have to have the gain turned up almost to max on the mic input so that the speach pattern shows in the software on screen (those troughs and spikes) but then the mic is so sensitive that it picks up every single noise my mouth makes, even a rumbling stomach, so editing is a long process. I don't need the interface in the room with me, once it's set up, I don't touch it so it sits outside the room with the PC which is fine. I have thought about using one of those mics that TV presenters use clipped on their clothing, so it's not so sensitive, but not sure how these connect to an interface with a traditional mic input. There are so many variables in this business, it's a mind-field and it's not my area of expertise; I'm a therapist by trade!
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Re: Audio-book recording - simple audio interface needed??

Postby ef37a » Thu Feb 24, 2011 8:51 am

Others FAR more qualified than I will I am sure kick in soon but I would like to make a few suggestions.

Good idea having the AI out of "fiddle" reach! I had not considered that.

If the mic picks up clunks and bumps see if you can borrow an omnidirectional type. Have you got it in a GOOD shockmount? A hardware or software LF cut cleans out a lot of crap, in fact you don't need much below ~100Hz for anything really except bass instruments, we have an 80Hz filter in on all mic channels all the time.

Noise gates. Someone will I am sure recommend a good software one*, probably free! In the meantime download Sony Soundforge demo. You get all its bells and whistles for 30 days and it is very easy to use and has some stonking noise reducing kit in it.

Hugh I am sure is the man to give you all the Beebs' tricks of the trade for voice overs! Oh! And NEVER give a reader a paper script!

*Might be one in Audacity. I will check later.

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Re: Audio-book recording - simple audio interface needed??

Postby The Elf » Thu Feb 24, 2011 9:32 am

What make/model of mic are we dealing with here?

I’d firstly echo some of the wise advice above.

You need to make sure you’re using a good shock-mount and putting the mic stand somewhere stable away from mechanical vibration. You also need a decent pop-shield to let you get closer in without blasts of air upsetting the mic. I prefer a shield with a double layer of mesh, but I often use a metal one and a mesh one in combination if I want to get a vocalist in very close. You’ll need to experiment to see what distance works best for you. If your mic has a bass cut filter then give that a try too.

Technique is important too. Keeping a consistent distance from the mic whilst making your voice interesting and expressive are skills I’ve seen in action and they make the engineer’s job much easier!

I’m not keen on using a noise gate on an exposed voice, since it sounds too obvious to me, but I’ll often use a low-ratio/low threshold expander followed by a fast high-ratio/high-threshold compressor. Essentially this combo will reduce some of the background noise and remove any nasty high-volume peaks.

If this is all gobbledegook then it might be worth looking at the options in your software to see if it contains any templates/presets for you to try.

HTH!
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Re: Audio-book recording - simple audio interface needed??

Postby James Perrett » Thu Feb 24, 2011 10:33 am

ef37a wrote:
Noise gates. Someone will I am sure recommend a good software one*, probably free! In the meantime download Sony Soundforge demo. You get all its bells and whistles for 30 days and it is very easy to use and has some stonking noise reducing kit in it.

The OP is already using Magix Music Studio which, as I understand it, is a cut down version of Samplitude which has a pretty good reputation. If you search for it, you can find free versions of Samplitude SE available which might (or might not) be a step up.

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Re: Audio-book recording - simple audio interface needed??

Postby artifus » Thu Feb 24, 2011 10:35 am

stumbled upon this years ago and promptly forgot about it until reading this thread. not tried it myself so not a personal recommendation and am slightly sceptical about it's 'magic' claims but seems pretty gobbledegook free and so maybe worth a look if it does what it says on the tin without too many audible artefacts.

levelator

also you mention pushing the gain towards max to achieve a visible waveform. don't worry about it looking a bit weak if you're recording at 24 bits and aim for your recorders input meter to average around -10dbfs probably about half way up the meters scale.
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Re: Audio-book recording - simple audio interface needed??

Postby The Elf » Thu Feb 24, 2011 10:49 am

At 24-bit I would aim for averaging around -20dBFS and *peaking* at -10dBFS.
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Re: Audio-book recording - simple audio interface needed??

Postby ef37a » Thu Feb 24, 2011 10:49 am

James Perrett wrote:
ef37a wrote:
Noise gates. Someone will I am sure recommend a good software one*, probably free! In the meantime download Sony Soundforge demo. You get all its bells and whistles for 30 days and it is very easy to use and has some stonking noise reducing kit in it.

The OP is already using Magix Music Studio which, as I understand it, is a cut down version of Samplitude which has a pretty good reputation. If you search for it, you can find free versions of Samplitude SE available which might (or might not) be a step up.

James.

Samplitude is indeed a very powerful DAW and the OP will find it pretty easy to learn after the little Magix app'. We have Samplitude se8, came free with a magazine but I have tried numerous times to download this "free" version of Sam 8 and cannot get anwhere. If you can help James I would be ever so obliged!

Samplitide 8se sold for about £49.99 and I have emailed Magix ad.n. and told them I would gladly pay a nifty each for a download..Shtummn!

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Re: Audio-book recording - simple audio interface needed??

Postby artifus » Thu Feb 24, 2011 10:54 am

The Elf wrote:At 24-bit I would aim for averaging around -20dBFS and *peaking* at -10dBFS.

^ what he said.
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Re: Audio-book recording - simple audio interface needed??

Postby The Elf » Thu Feb 24, 2011 11:16 am

artifus wrote:
The Elf wrote:At 24-bit I would aim for averaging around -20dBFS and *peaking* at -10dBFS.

^ what he said.
It's easily done. I constantly refer to HPF and LPF the wrong way round! Doh!
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Re: Audio-book recording - simple audio interface needed??

Postby ef37a » Thu Feb 24, 2011 11:39 am

The Elf wrote:
artifus wrote:
The Elf wrote:At 24-bit I would aim for averaging around -20dBFS and *peaking* at -10dBFS.

^ what he said.
It's easily done. I constantly refer to HPF and LPF the wrong way round! Doh!

It's when you start putting you pants on back to front that you really need to worry!

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Re: Audio-book recording - simple audio interface needed??

Postby Skibobber » Thu Feb 24, 2011 12:01 pm

I'm using M-Audio Nova Large-Capsule Condenser Mic. The information offered here is becoming far too technical, useful I'm sure but all gobble-de-goop to me!

I'm managing fine with the mic, the sensitivity is a minor irritation, it is on a mic stand, has a pop filter. I'm not using anything as sophisticated as Magix Samplitude, it’s a very basic £30.00 program for creating Dance music, I don’t use any of the sample sounds, just the waveform part that loads up when you start the program. I sometimes add some echo here and there and there are whole host of special effects racks that I don’t use either. I can manually manipulate everything I need to, using similar icons to windows for things like cut, paste copy etc, so everything is familiar. I can work with 6 tracks if I want to, but never need them.

As per my original post, just looking for a simple, basic, easy-to-use USB Audio Interface that accepts my Phantom mic, and works with Windows 7. I am producing my own Audio Only CDs and mp3s.
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Re: Audio-book recording - simple audio interface needed??

Postby artifus » Thu Feb 24, 2011 1:51 pm

blue mic icicle

40 quid

can't get much simpler than that. driverless operation and w7 compatible. first i found with a quick google and i'm sure other manufactures do a very similar product (if not the same one re-badged) so may be worth a further google to see if there's anything available cheaper elsewhere.
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Re: Audio-book recording - simple audio interface needed??

Postby ef37a » Thu Feb 24, 2011 2:53 pm

artifus wrote: blue mic icicle

40 quid

can't get much simpler than that. driverless operation and w7 compatible. first i found with a quick google and i'm sure other manufactures do a very similar product (if not the same one re-badged) so may be worth a further google to see if there's anything available cheaper elsewhere.

And for some Gaks reason it is only 16bit operation! Couple of guys here have been at pains to point out that the OP should be running 24bits at neg 18!

Is there in fact a 24 bit usb mic made at all?

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Re: Audio-book recording - simple audio interface needed??

Postby artifus » Thu Feb 24, 2011 3:44 pm

yeah, i only noticed that after posting but don't think it would be an issue for the op who is recording spoken word and wanting to avoid gobbledegook. must be the same cheap chip they put in usb podcasting mics and usb guitars i guess.
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Re: Audio-book recording - simple audio interface needed??

Postby shufflebeat » Thu Feb 24, 2011 3:59 pm

Skibobber wrote:I'm using M-Audio Nova Large-Capsule Condenser Mic. The information offered here is becoming far too technical, useful I'm sure but all gobble-de-goop to me!

I'm managing fine with the mic, the sensitivity is a minor irritation, it is on a mic stand, has a pop filter. I'm not using anything as sophisticated as Magix Samplitude, it’s a very basic £30.00 program for creating Dance music, I don’t use any of the sample sounds, just the waveform part that loads up when you start the program. I sometimes add some echo here and there and there are whole host of special effects racks that I don’t use either. I can manually manipulate everything I need to, using similar icons to windows for things like cut, paste copy etc, so everything is familiar. I can work with 6 tracks if I want to, but never need them.

As per my original post, just looking for a simple, basic, easy-to-use USB Audio Interface that accepts my Phantom mic, and works with Windows 7. I am producing my own Audio Only CDs and mp3s.

The advice here is good but not really relevant to your needs. The mic looks solid enough, you have a servicable recording programme you understand and unless clients are complaining about lack of drums and bass you don't need to worry about MIDI yet.

The blue mic icicle mentioned above looks sufficient to your needs. Unless you're buying a new PC anyway I'd be inclined to pick up a second hand XP laptop and get therapping.

Otherwise, consider a small hand held digital recording unit (like a super hifi dictaphone) of which there are many.
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Re: Audio-book recording - simple audio interface needed??

Postby ef37a » Thu Feb 24, 2011 4:13 pm

The penny has dropped!
That Magix program will be 16bit only anyway (I have a copy of Magix Studio Gen6, handy but also 16bit).

So, yes, sorry some of us, much me, got a bit carried away!

If you should find that the 122 does work ok on W7 you will still be stuck with the slight but, as you say, annoying lack of gain problem.

A very cheap solution would be a small mixer such as the Behringer Xeny 502 which will give you more than enough gain to feed the Tascam on which you would then use a line input.

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Re: Audio-book recording - simple audio interface needed??

Postby artifus » Thu Feb 24, 2011 4:20 pm

just had a thought regarding the mic gain issue - has your mic or interface a switch or button labelled 'pad'?
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Re: Audio-book recording - simple audio interface needed??

Postby ROLO46 » Thu Feb 24, 2011 4:34 pm

I don't think recording directly into the 'puter is best practice
XLR into a small silent solid state recorder and then file transfer to the 'puter for post production would be neater and not a budget breaker
Good pair of cans to self monitor ,possibly fig 8 on the Mic and use the side nulls to reduce page turns,Fig 8 also means good proximity so the Mic can be worked further from the mouth than Cardioid.
Pop stopper not essential at distance though the new Rycote Lyre with Pop gag is great value.
By angling the Mic at 45 degrees a small room can sound OK.
Just a hint of compression and a few Top n Tails and your done.
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Re: Audio-book recording - simple audio interface needed??

Postby Mike Stranks » Thu Feb 24, 2011 8:08 pm

ROLO46 wrote:XLR into a small silent solid state recorder and then file transfer to the 'puter for post production would be neater and not a budget breaker... By angling the Mic at 45 degrees a small room can sound OK... Just a hint of compression and a few Top n Tails and your done.

Yup! That works for me! No worries about computer noise when recording 'cos it's switched-off. I don't get hung-up about page-turning; if I can hear it on playback then I simply edit it out.
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