Re: [linux-audio-user] GSG for home studio? (Newbie question)

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Subject: Re: [linux-audio-user] GSG for home studio? (Newbie question)
From: Paul Winkler (
Date: Sat Dec 14 2002 - 02:14:19 EET

On Fri, Dec 13, 2002 at 05:57:59PM -0500, Chris wrote:
> 1) How important is a da-ad converter, and how much must one spend on this?

Depends on how anal you want to get about your sound quality.
For an average home recordist like me, the converters
built in to the M-audio Delta series is more than adequate.
RME has some comparable options.

> 2) What does one look for in a soundcard. Is it necessary to invest $600
> in one -- I mean, where is all that money really going?

Converters, and number of simultaneous ins / outs.

> What makes a card
> like the hammerfall so great?

LOTS of simultaneous ins / outs with low latency.

> How much on these cards is "fluff" and how
> much is really practical for just recording.

IMO there is little or no fluff on the RME and M-audio
soundcards. The question is, what's a typical session
for you? Think about how many signals you need to get
into and out of the computer at once. If you never do more
than e.g. two mics on a guitar, you could get by
with a card with stereo I/O.

OTOH, if you wanted to track a big live band with
8 drum mics (kick, snare, 3 toms, hi-hat, 2 overheads),
2 mics on 2 guitar amps, a bassist,
3 mics on a horn section, 2-4 channels of keyboards,
at least 1 vocal channel for scratch vocals...
and a mic or two out in the room to pick up general
ambience... and IF you need to put each of those
signals on its own track for later editing /
tweaking / mixing... you're up to 21 channels already.
The hammerfall is really your only choice for Linux
at that point (unless you can work out how to
sync three M-audio Delta 1010's and use them as
one virtual "card"... should be possible but I don't
know of anyone who's done it under linux).
> 3) Do people actually use fiber for their lines? Or is this super-duper
> high end stuff?

For what? I don't know what you mean.
> 4) I have spent some time on some sites of card manufacturers... and I
> can't quite piece together how multiple inputs work on the cards... is it a
> one for one deal (one input = one channel),


> or is their some software or
> hardware that allows for more than one channel per input?

No, unless you're talking about something like ADAT lightpipe
which is 8 channels I/O per lightpipe jack. But nobody will
market a card as having "1 lightpipe I/O" when they could
market it as having "8 digital inputs, 8 digital outputs".
> 5) how good is open-source software for effects processing... I saw
> something on the ardour site saying that it does not support "plugins"...

Don't know what you saw. Ardour *does* support plugins.
The only "standard" on linux at the moment is LADSPA.
There are a number of nice Ladspa plugins, and there are more
and better ones added all the time. We have some quite good
reverbs, delays, and EQs. THere are compressors, too; I haven't
tried them lately. Lots of stuff. Distortion... etc. etc...

start at

Also, both Ardour and Ecasound use JACK for I/O.
This means you can patch signals from your recorder / mixer app
into and out of other JACK-aware apps, such as Freqtweak, which
is a very interesting and bizarre radical EQ device.

In fact, you can run ardour as a recorder and use Ecamegapedal
(based on ecasound) as an effects device for ardour!

> 6) What do you guys do for a drum machine solution, is software adequate or
> do you really recommend getting a drum machine?

Some people use "trackers". There are also full-featured MIDI
sequencers, e.g. Rosegarden and MuSE.
I'm currently looking around for a drum-machine-like app that
feels right to me. seq24 looks promising, but I only just installed it and
haven't managed to get it to talk to a softsynth or sampler yet.

> 7) Does everybody go direct on this, or do they mic their amps (I am
> primarily a guitar player). How do you keep the sound quality up if you
> are direct?

Direct guitar is tough... Currently I mic my amp.
Your other alternatives are 1) a device built for this purpose,
e.g. the Pod Pro; or 2) a simple direct box into a mic input
on your mixer, feeding your soundcard, feeding some amp emulation
software. There are a couple LADSPA plugins that were much discussed
recently on linux-audio-dev for this purpose.
I've been meaning to try those...

> 8) I want to build a **QUIET** machine... Any suggestions on computer
> hardware? (I have bought from quietpc, and found that some of the stuff
> was no quieter than normal --even louder some times).

I got stuff from quietpc and it was a definite improvement.
But really it's a hard problem. Remember how studios
have tape closets? well, now a lot of them have computer
closets. :-(

> I am accustomed to using cassette tape 4 tracks, and analog mixers and I am
> pretty familiar with linux and open source stuff (although I am not
> primarily a coder).

Be sure you realize that Ardour is still pre-beta and it can be
quite an adventure. E.g. sometimes the session file format changes and
you have to jump through hoops to get your old sessions to load.
And it's still pretty easy to crash it. But it improves weekly,
sometimes daily.

I don't think you'll find ardour or ecasound as straightforward
as a familiar cassette 4-track. Just like Photoshop is not
as straightforward as a pencil. :)
> I have a marshall jmp-1 preamp with a valvestate 8008, a RockTron
> intellifex, proq and guitar silencer (all rackmount) on top of a marshall
> jcm-900 lead-1960. I would be sad to see some of it go, but since I am not
> performing, I would be willing sell some off if there is better stuff for
> home recording. I would only need about 4 simultaneous inputs.
> Excluding the pc I must build, I would like to try to keep the price around
> $1000 (including the sound card). Is this realistic? I might spend more
> if I wind up selling some of my current equipment.

It's realistic.
You don't say whether you have mixer, mics, and mic stands.
I have similar needs and I ended up with
a Mackie 1202 VLZ-Pro and an M-audio Delta 66, both
"like new" from Ebay, and I paid around $500 total.
(I forget the exact amount.)
You could cut the total cost by getting one of the
older versions of the 1202 (the VLZ or the original 1202)
and by getting a Delta 44, which is the same except without

Anyway, assuming the card and mixer run you $500, you've
now budgeted $500 for a decent mic, a mic stand, and
some cables. :)

You could also skip the mixer and get M-audio's Omni I/O
gadget, but personally I'd rather have the mixer -
they're just so damn handy.


Paul Winkler "Welcome to Muppet Labs, where the future is made - today!"

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