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View Full Version : USB Audio Interface for recording into Garageband or Audacity (M-Audio, Line6?)



blueswithafeeling
02-26-2010, 05:27 AM
Do people have any preferred USB audio interfaces (sub-$150) for recording ukulele and vocals to the computer? I am looking at the M-Audio Fast Track (MK II) and the MobilePre and the difference seems to be USB 1.1 (I think MKII is 2.0) and 16bit vs 24bit and $20 difference in cost. The MKII seems to be new so I haven't seen any real reviews of it. Also looking at the Line6 Pod UX2 but I don't really need the modeling and don't like the idea that the controls are part of the included program so don't know if it will work with say Audacity or Garageband.

Does anyone have/use any of these (or others that they like) and have any thoughts to share?

Thanks,

-Atin

buddhuu
02-26-2010, 06:00 AM
I use an Alesis mixer, and I'm very happy with it, but a mate has a Behringer Xenyx 1204 with USB which I also like very much.

My Alesis suffers from some hiss on monitoring (which doesn't carry over onto the recorded track). The Behringer monitor sound seems cleaner to me. It's a great little mixer with very nice mic preamps. Would also work with a PA for gigs :).

It'll take separate mics for vocal and uke if you want, with XLR inputs to spare. Phantom power for condensers.

$129.95 from Amazon.com http://www.amazon.com/Behringer-1204-Premium-12-Input-Interface/dp/B000GSA59M/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=musical-instruments&qid=1267199677&sr=8-1-catcorr

blueswithafeeling
02-26-2010, 06:06 AM
I wasn't even considering mixers because just looking at them made me think they'll be way more expensive given all the knobs and stuff! More research to do . . . :)

-Atin

spots
02-26-2010, 06:20 AM
I'm using an ART Tube MP Project Series USB pre-amp purchased for under $100. It has XLR and 1/4" inputs, and USB, XLR, and 1/4" outputs.

I have a Behringer XM8500 dynamic mic (~$30-35) hooked up to the ART.

I feed it into the "Line In" on my sound card using an XLR to 1/8" mini plug. The XLR outputs have more volume than the USB output. Since I am using a dynamic mic it helps. I like my mic to be sensitive so I'm not standing right on it.



The audio file has not been filtered, normalized, etc. Recorded at 16 bit 48kHz and converted to MP3 using 224 bit.

The mic sits on a desk and is angled up at about 45. The sound hole of the uke is probably about 8"-10" below the mic and 22"-24" away from it.

I am playing a soprano Flea strung with Worth CM.

spots
02-26-2010, 06:27 AM
Sorry, the previous link kept going to an incorrect sound file so I removed it.

Here is the link to the correct sound file described above. (http://www.mediafire.com/?ejmnygjnjmj)

blueswithafeeling
02-26-2010, 06:50 AM
spots, thanks for the sound file - it sounded quite clean. The ART Tube MP Project Series preamp is a single channel preamp, correct? I like the sound, but would prefer at least two channels so I can plug both my mic (choice of using either a condenser or dynamic), and my guitar or ukulele.

I also realized that I should be looking at zero latency monitoring and line-in connectivity given that I will want to record at least two to three tracks eventually, doing them separately.

-Atin

spots
02-26-2010, 08:56 AM
Peavey makes a six channel USB mixing board called the PV6 USB. It runs about $130 MSRP.

Yes the ART Tube MP Project Series USB is a single channel preamp. It has a few features that the lower priced (and older) non USB Tube MP series lacked.

Art also sells a dual channel "ART Dual Pre USB" which has a USB output (no XLR outputs), headphone monitoring, and accepts two XLR or 1/4" inputs. It also supplies phantom power. It does not have quite as much gain on the input as the Tube MP USB, and it does not have a built in limiter or separate output gain control. I like the output gain control and limit filter on the Tube MP USB because they help to keep the output levels from spiking (even with the input gain turned up) before they pass into the computer.

thejumpingflea
02-26-2010, 08:37 PM
I currently have a TonePort UX2 that I run with Gearbox and Garageband. I payed like 130ish for it when I bought it. It's worked very well for me.

luvdat
02-27-2010, 01:16 PM
Anyone know about the Behringer C-1U...direct condenser into PC compatible with Audacity? Any thoughts about such an approach? Better to use one of the Xenyx offerings?

JT_Ukes
02-27-2010, 01:20 PM
Audacity will recognize it as long as windows does.

luvdat
02-27-2010, 01:31 PM
Audacity will recognize it as long as windows does.

They say it does work with Windows.

I guess my question is if one of the Xenyx mixers would be better overall...

seeso
02-27-2010, 01:50 PM
I use the M-Audio MobilePre. Works like a charm with GarageBand.

blueswithafeeling
02-27-2010, 03:27 PM
I am considering the Behringer Xenyx mixers after Rick's post. But now I'm thinking about how much I really need the USB interface. Since all mixers under $200 are USB 1.1, they only put out the stereo mix onto the USB to the computer and cannot send out all the inputs as separate tracks to the computer. So I can't be doing multitrack recording anyway whether I use USB or not (not that I foresee recording more than two people at the same time given my musical preferences). Is the signal just much cleaner on USB because it is digital? How bad is it if I just plug the mixer's stereo/tape outs to the line-in on a soundcard (Macbook Pro in my case, but same idea) with an rca to 1/8" Y connector? I'll still get just the stereo mix that I would get using a USB 1.1 audio interface and they run a lot cheaper without the USB or Firewire connections. I think the Macbook Pro's sound interface is plenty fast enough to record a stereo mix from what I've read and so I am looking at the cheaper mixers that give me enough inputs (Behringer Xenyx 840 for example) to plug in upto two mics or one mic and one guitar/ukulele thru a DI, and my drum machine. The USB 1.1 interfaces also send back at most two tracks to the mixer for monitoring, which the soundcard out to stereo/tape in could do as well so it isn't a win there either. Or should I just go USB because of the potential for less noise?

-Atin

JT_Ukes
02-27-2010, 03:39 PM
The USB interface is cleaner as it is digital. Using the line in on a PC is iffy at best unless you have atop of the line sound card. A lot of system noise and interference can be heard on built in sound cards etc. depending on how good the shielding is. The quality of the microphone is important as well.

(Ever think of a Zoom H2? its a 4 chan digital recorder AND is a USB mic/audio interface. $160 ish on e-bay Just sayin)

That being said, not all USB interfaces are equal either as I found out this week when i picked up a cheap USB audio interface form CompUSA, and quickly returned.

Stick with a name brand, and all should be ok.

spots
02-27-2010, 04:19 PM
I don't think USB is automatically the right/best choice.

My mic pre-amp has both XLR and USB outputs. I find the USB output to have less volume than the XLR output. To get the USB output to have the same volume as the XLR output, I have to turn the pre-amp's output gain control up significantly. Then I have to max out Audacity's USB input recording volume. This introduces some white noise into the recording.

The XLR to Line In is nearly silent in terms of noise.

The recording via USB is still very usable, but with my setup the pre-amp's XLR output to the Line In on the computer produces better and cleaner recordings.

luvdat
02-27-2010, 04:23 PM
Going with the Behringer Xenyx 802 and the UCA202 Audio Adaptor...will update...

The 802 is on sale at Guitar Center.

JT_Ukes
02-27-2010, 04:24 PM
Spots...

Do you turn up the levels in windows sound manger?

When I use my USB mic that is the first thing i check, and the level is usually very very low.

right click on the volume and depending one the version of windows the settings are in there.

e-mail me at jt (at) nightgig.com and i can walk you through checking that if you need the help.

JT

blueswithafeeling
02-27-2010, 04:34 PM
Going with the Behringer Xenyx 802 and the UCA202 Audio Adaptor...will update...

The 802 is on sale at Guitar Center.

Thanks! I'd like to hear how you do with that. I am thinking about the same - and since I don't need pristine quality, I'm going to check both with and without the audio interface before I decide to keep it or just go for the Xenyx 1204USB.

blueswithafeeling
02-27-2010, 04:37 PM
(Ever think of a Zoom H2? its a 4 chan digital recorder AND is a USB mic/audio interface. $160 ish on e-bay Just sayin)


I have and it was on my list too - but then seeing that I could get a Xenyx 1204USB for less (and since I already have access to a few different kinds/qualities of mics from my friends), I am thinking of having a mixer in the mix. :)

Though I guess the real goal is just to get the sound of my guitar/ukulele and my voice onto the computer in decent enough quality to be able to enjoy it if I do well, so cheap+good enough trumps bells and whistles!

-Atin

luvdat
02-27-2010, 04:47 PM
Thanks! I'd like to hear how you do with that. I am thinking about the same - and since I don't need pristine quality, I'm going to check both with and without the audio interface before I decide to keep it or just go for the Xenyx 1204USB.

Will do. Am picking up the 802 tomorrow...but will probably have to order the UCA202...

The best to you.

blueswithafeeling
02-27-2010, 05:01 PM
http://www.tweakheadz.com/rigs.htm#Rig3

Tweak discusses using the Xenyx 1204 in a home studio rig and says if you are using a laptop (like I am using the Macbook Pro), you can "plug the alt 3-4 out of the Xenyx directly to the audio line input and take the line output back to the Tape in". Or use the USB if you get the USB version. 802 doesn't have the alt 3-4 outs, 1204 does. But maybe the tape out would do the same since it is the same as the main mix.

Also, talks about connecting a mixer similar to the 802 (the Xenyx 1002) to the computer under "Workaround with a mixer without an ALT bus, direct outs or inserts": http://www.tweakheadz.com/how_to_hookup_a_mixer.htm - I think the FX sends are the same on the 1002 and the Xenyx 802.

lukuleles
02-27-2010, 05:18 PM
i use the line 6 ux2 and it works fine with audacity and other recording programs.

it is really easy to hook your hardware into it and get some good sounds. you don't have to use the effects and/or amp modeling that comes with the software, but it is a nice plus. you can also use it for phantom power to your mics.

blueswithafeeling
02-27-2010, 05:26 PM
i use the line 6 ux2 and it works fine with audacity and other recording programs.

it is really easy to hook your hardware into it and get some good sounds. you don't have to use the effects and/or amp modeling that comes with the software, but it is a nice plus. you can also use it for phantom power to your mics.

Does the software that comes with it have to be running at all? I saw that the EMU stuff was really all windows based with all the controls on the hardware being driven via the software interface program that comes with it and I was afraid the Line 6 UX1, UX2 etc were the same way. Do they just get recognized as USB interfaces and let the OS handle the details? Thanks.

spots
02-27-2010, 07:03 PM
Spots...

Do you turn up the levels in windows sound manger?

When I use my USB mic that is the first thing i check, and the level is usually very very low.

right click on the volume and depending one the version of windows the settings are in there.

e-mail me at jt (at) nightgig.com and i can walk you through checking that if you need the help.

JT

JT,

Thank you for your reply and offer.

I know which volume controls you are talking about, but they are not applicable in this case. I have used other USB input devices which have had the volume controls you are talking about. This pre-amp works differently.

When this pre-amp ties into the USB audio codec it does not have an active volume control under either Windows "Sound and Audio Devices" or opening the volume control via the system tray. The volume buttons are disabled. When you click on the Volume Control, select Option --> Properties, choose the USB audio codec as the mixing device, and then click "Recording" there are no volume controls listed. The box is empty, blank. I have downloaded different USB audio codecs and they all act the same.

With this piece of hardware the USB audio codec becomes a pipe to dump the digital signal directly into the recording software without modifying it.

All volume modifications are done at either the pre-amp hardware before it enters the computer, or in the recording software itself.

I've used Audacity and GoldWave with identical results.

The introduction of white noise in Audacity when using the pre-amp's USB output makes sense to me. The preamp allows you to boost the output signal level (in addition to setting the input gain). So when it is boosted a second time in Audacity, Audacity is amplifying an amplified signal. This brings out the white noise.

I'm wondering if better recording software would work with the incoming data stream differently.

When I use the XLR output to the "Line In" on the sound card I get both great volume and a very clean and noise free recording.

buddhuu
02-28-2010, 07:31 AM
I use phono-to-jack cable to line-in rather than USB from my mixer. Quality is easily good enough for my needs.

luvdat
02-28-2010, 07:33 AM
Picked up the Xenyx 802 with RCA Y and a 5ft. 1/8th. The young gear snob at Guitar Center attempted to get me to spend more money. Not exactly and expose here...

Will pick up more fun supplies later in the week ,maybe tomorrow.

Will try the workaround first.

luvdat
02-28-2010, 01:16 PM
I use phono-to-jack cable to line-in rather than USB from my mixer. Quality is easily good enough for my needs.

And this is the path I'm on. I think trying to get it "perfect" or more like getting all Eric Johnson about the USB as an absolute requirement...no need to.

thanks to spots and you, too, buddhu.

blueswithafeeling
03-01-2010, 08:44 AM
Great! So how'd the 802 fare on phono-to-jack cable? That's the path I am on right now - though I might go for the Xenyx 1204 rather than the 802 so I have the alt 3-4 bus (and because Rick pointed us to it :) ).

luvdat
03-01-2010, 01:14 PM
Great! So how'd the 802 fare on phono-to-jack cable? That's the path I am on right now - though I might go for the Xenyx 1204 rather than the 802 so I have the alt 3-4 bus (and because Rick pointed us to it :) ).

Let you know. Dragging my feet on the mic but I hope to get something done by the weekend.



Update: ordered the Behringer C-1...

blueswithafeeling
03-08-2010, 06:58 AM
Ordered the Xenyx 802 as well - will try a line-in from the CD/tape out with an RCA to 1/8" stereo pin to the MacBook Pro and see how that fares. If it sucks, will return and get a Xenyx 1204USB and use USB. Also discovered Ardour for Mac and Linux - seems good for a free program on first glance. Haven't actually played with it yet.

HaileISela
03-08-2010, 08:35 AM
I just wanted to mention my solution: I use a Samson G-Track studio USB condenser microphone in combination with my slow-as-hell old laptop running Ableton Live. I'm totally happy with the results as the mic has a great sound (some of my friends who understand way more of this than me were pretty impressed, too), an USB audio interface, so you got an extra input for either line-in or an instrument and direct monitoring, as well as gain controls.

it has a 19 mm diaphragm and is compatible not just with windows, but also apples (tried it on bananas too, albeit with little success...)

so if you only got your voice and Uke, this is another alternative since it's only 109€...

kilaana
03-08-2010, 06:57 PM
I've been happy with the Edirol UA-4FX USB Audio/MIDI Interface I recently bought, but it's a little more than the $150 you want to spend ($200 on Amazon).

happyslappysoong
03-10-2010, 08:07 PM
This has probably been mentioned previously, but you couild even just something simple like a Behringer GuitarLink USB interface...works with audacity.

blueswithafeeling
03-14-2010, 01:50 PM
I eventually got the Behringer Xenyx 802, a Shadow under-saddle pickup and an LR Baggs Para Acoustic DI. After drilling into my Kala Thinline (that was a little scary), I have the pickup installed and working. I plugged the ukulele into the Para Acoustic, and that to the 802. I then used a 1/8" stereo to rca splitter to plug the 802's CD/Tape outs to the Macbook Pro's line-in and it records great without hiss etc. I will be borrowing a Shure SM58 mic to plug into the mixer as well. Will post a demo sometime soon.

luvdat
03-17-2010, 01:26 AM
I eventually got the Behringer Xenyx 802, a Shadow under-saddle pickup and an LR Baggs Para Acoustic DI. After drilling into my Kala Thinline (that was a little scary), I have the pickup installed and working. I plugged the ukulele into the Para Acoustic, and that to the 802. I then used a 1/8" stereo to rca splitter to plug the 802's CD/Tape outs to the Macbook Pro's line-in and it records great without hiss etc. I will be borrowing a Shure SM58 mic to plug into the mixer as well. Will post a demo sometime soon.

Will also post a demo soon. Got the 802 and the C-1 mic from Behringer. I plug the RCA lines CD/Tape outs (from Y to single) into the mic input on my PC with the level on the 802 relatively low (Able to use mic for vocals with the Flea...).

paulk
04-28-2010, 06:39 PM
My vote goes to the Tascam US-144mkII. $150

I'm using a Mac Pro and my previous M-Audio FastTrack had intermittent noise and levels issues. The Tascam has 2 XLR inputs, as well as quarter inch line in and line/guitar, with built in pre and phantom. It works completely powered off the USB bus and has really been great for me - low noise, excellent gain, and no issues with compatibility in Snow Leopard.