How to ask for gear buying advice in this subforum

Discussion in 'Recording/Live Sound' started by Scott Whigham, Jan 6, 2014.

  1. Scott Whigham

    Scott Whigham Member

    Messages:
    3,536
    Joined:
    Mar 4, 2010
    Location:
    Dallas, TX
    Scroll down for example questions we need answers to...
    Terms and definitions that you may not know are at the bottom of the post...

    I thought I'd give a little perspective to the newbies in the hopes that this will help them get their questions answered quickly and specifically. Note: this post is for those who are new to home recording.

    We see this type of thread constantly here:
    On the surface, this seems like a reasonable question. To experienced recording engineers (even hobbyists) though, it reads more like this:
    That sort of question makes the reader ask too many questions - "How far do you have to travel? How often? At night? Is safety an issue? How much can you spend? Do you have anything wrong with you that would exclude a bicycle? What's the weather like where you are?" etc, etc, etc. For someone to tell me that they have a computer and that they want help finding an interface is like being given a single puzzle piece out of a 50-piece puzzle and then being asked to make a drawing of what the puzzle would have looked like if I had all the pieces put together. Could I do it? Sure - I could take a stab at it. I could make educated guesses and probably get at least 5-10% of the picture correct. But if I had, say, 20 more puzzle pieces, I could've probably gotten 90% or higher. And that's really what I'm trying to get you to understand here: the more data points we have, the more helpful we can be (and the less guesswork there will be on both sides).

    -----------------------

    Interface - if you're needing help finding an interface, the least we need to know is:

    • Computer specs of your current (or future) system
    • Computer OS and version
    • What DAW you will use (Pro Tools, Reaper, Cubase, etc)
    • How many simultaneous microphones you will record (a.k.a. "tracks", the "i" in I/O)
    • Do you need a DI?
    • What current gear you have
    • Do you have any outboard gear you need to integrate?
    • How much latency is tolerable (none, minimal, and "doesn't matter" are the kinds of answers here)
    • What's the purpose (make CDs, gear demos, record band rehearsals, etc)
    • Budget
    Studio monitors - the least we need to know is:

    • What you are listening on now (studio monitors, studio-quality headphones, home speakers, computer speakers, or 'other')
    • The dimensions of your room (include ceiling height)
    • Any anomalies your room has (heater duct on left wall, ceiling fan, etc)
    • Whether your room is treated (acoustically treated)
    • What types of music will these be used for?
    • Intended use of monitors (mixing, playing an amp modeler through, mastering, etc)
    • Budget
    Microphones - the least we need to know is:

    • What mics you have now
    • What you will be recording (what sources guitar amp, acoustic guitar, vocals, etc)
    • What type of music
    • How loud are the sources (electric guitar w/ 100W amp, drums, etc)
    • Do you have any noise problems in the recording environment (noisy HVAC, planes overhead, etc)?
    • Do you have any particular recordings that highlight what you want yours to sound like?
    • What's the purpose (make CDs, gear demos, record band rehearsals, etc)
    • Budget
    DAW - the least we need to know is:

    • Intended use of DAW (recording, mixing, mastering, mashups, beats, etc)
    • What type(s) of music?
    • Computer specs
    • Computer OS
    • How much time are you willing to invest in learning it?
    • Are you "good with computers"?
    • Budget
    Basic writing tips to help us:

    • If you ask us generic questions, we can't provide specific answers (and by "specific answers", I mean "answers that would help you specifically").
    • Leave the ambiguous terms out - there's a big difference between "I just want it to sound good" and "I want it to be clear highs, the bass to be tight and punchy, and the cymbals to have a ring that just shimmers."
    • Be specific in your terms and descriptions
    • Share products that you have experience with
    Terms and definitions:

    I hope this helps. Please let me know if there are other considerations I should list here!
     
    Last edited: Jan 7, 2014
    skydog, yeky83, derekd and 11 others like this.
  2. cjcayea

    cjcayea cool as a cucumber in a bowl of hot sauce

    Messages:
    4,013
    Joined:
    Oct 15, 2008
    Location:
    Upstate NY
    this is a good post. people often do not know what they do not know.
     
    voodoosound, dbeeman and DGW like this.
  3. Catch

    Catch Analog>Digital Converter

    Messages:
    844
    Joined:
    Sep 9, 2009
    Location:
    Metro DC
    Outstanding post.

    I appreciate it...wish I had had it available when I built my small personal project studio--it would gave saved me some time by ordering my thoughts/providing a checklist.

    Mods, can we sticky this?

    Also, @ TheGuy, you are right, people often have no idea how complex a topic can be!
     
  4. Motterpaul

    Motterpaul Tone is in the Ears

    Messages:
    10,510
    Joined:
    Dec 16, 2010
    Location:
    Encinitas, SoCal
    Hi Scott....

    I usually write posts like this for the guitar forums where someone asks...

    "Hi, first time here, what's a better guitar, Telecaster or Ibanez?"

    Hey - what kind of music do you play?, Do you want to play live, or record. How far along is your playing ability?"

    In all honesty, I think you are talking over the heads of a lot of people. This is not an advanced recording forum, its a spot in what is regularly a guitar forum. A lot of experienced guitarists may not know what half the word you just used mean like:

    DAW
    interface
    DI
    latency
    mastering

    - those are all pretty advanced concepts for a novice, so wile I am with you in spirit, I wouldn't raise the bar quite so high. I would ask:

    What kind of music do you want to record?

    Is this for demos, songwriting, band rehearsal?

    How many instruments do you want included simultaneously?

    Are you a computer person, or would you rather have a standalone unit?

    What is your budget?

    THAT is where I would start, and assuming they can answer all of those questions then I might give them your list as a follow up.
     
    tapeup and Scott Whigham like this.
  5. eclecto-acoustic

    eclecto-acoustic Supporting Member

    Messages:
    8,007
    Joined:
    Apr 5, 2011
    Location:
    ze Island
    Put the terminology at the top, make it a sticky. Great post.
     
  6. Julia343

    Julia343 Member

    Messages:
    7,618
    Joined:
    Oct 31, 2007
    This is a good thread. People can easily waste money trying to go cheap. I'll be honest with you. You may think that ... oh I just want to hear myself. If you're just a noodler, fine. Go cheap. Honestly that's the way to go. Download the free software on the internet, get a cheap pair of monitors, and a budget interface. Don't waste your money on anything high end.

    But if you're a creative type, and you write songs, forget it. Cheap isn't going to cut it. This is going to get expensive in a hurry.
     
    IGuitUpIGuitDown likes this.
  7. Scott Whigham

    Scott Whigham Member

    Messages:
    3,536
    Joined:
    Mar 4, 2010
    Location:
    Dallas, TX
    Glad you guys think it's good - I was a bit worried it was too simple.

    I think you just have to treat this post as what it is: it's a "how to ask questions for recording gear suggestions" post. It isn't an "introduction to recording" - if you don't know what an interface is, for example, then you wouldn't have asked for interface buying advice in the forum; you would've asked something like, "What do I need to start recording?" Once you figured all the terms and definitions out, then you're ready to read this thread.

    As for the questions, I like the asking of what the purpose is - I've added that to the list of questions.

    I do think that, if you're going to have a post about what to ask so that you can save everyone time, why not make a full-fledged, complete post about it? If we make it even simpler, then we're going to minimize the usefulness of such a post. We do need to ask different questions based on the gear - I don't need to know what size your room is, for example, to make interface suggestions but I require that info to offer monitor suggestions. So if we know that we need to ask those questions up front and we have a sticky post about what questions to ask, why not list them? The people who read the post and follow the questions will be able to get really fast, really targeted help. If the poster chooses to just answer the most basic questions, that's fine too - they'll at least get a little more specific help than they would otherwise have received. I think it's sort of like having kids - you set the bar high knowing that, even if they don't hit it, they'll get most of it and that will be a big improvement over not hitting any of it.
     
    time2kill likes this.
  8. Cgkindler

    Cgkindler Member

    Messages:
    6,003
    Joined:
    Apr 17, 2013
    Location:
    Now Wetumpka AL
    Like the post!


    So, what do I need to sound good? ;-)


    I kid I kid!! :)
     
  9. Scott Whigham

    Scott Whigham Member

    Messages:
    3,536
    Joined:
    Mar 4, 2010
    Location:
    Dallas, TX
    lol - made me laugh :)
     
  10. Scott Whigham

    Scott Whigham Member

    Messages:
    3,536
    Joined:
    Mar 4, 2010
    Location:
    Dallas, TX
    Bump for the weekend folks!
     
  11. Scott Peterson

    Scott Peterson Staff Member

    Messages:
    36,860
    Joined:
    Jan 3, 2002
    Location:
    Michigan
    Sticky material - and stuck!
     
    time2kill likes this.
  12. sacakl

    sacakl Silver Supporting Member

    Messages:
    4,921
    Joined:
    Jul 31, 2010
    Location:
    Sacramento, CA
    Wow, thanks! This comes at a great time since I'll be moving into a new home next month and will have some space for recording.
     
  13. smolder

    smolder Gold Supporting Member

    Messages:
    13,850
    Joined:
    Jun 16, 2008
    Location:
    Central Rocky Mountains
    ... and now one for live sr?
     
  14. Motterpaul

    Motterpaul Tone is in the Ears

    Messages:
    10,510
    Joined:
    Dec 16, 2010
    Location:
    Encinitas, SoCal
    I am sorry - but it seems to me that since this sticky went up the activity in this board has gone down, and in most cases the questions that do come don't seem to follow the advice in this sticky anyway.

    I suggest a "Recording FAQ" with definitions should be added to this sticky thread, because as I said above, I think many of the "requirements" for asking questions here are actually over the heads of many people who may want to ask questions here.

    If that is the case - and you have a burning question - please feel free to ask it. Of course, it helps if we do not have to re-define things like "interface" every time, but then again, if we had a FAQ to go with this thread we wouldn't have to do that.

    EDIT: I just want to point out that a day after I added this post, the number of new questions posted here the next day was 10 - that is as many questions as we had here in the previous 7-days combined (more or less).
     
    Last edited: May 13, 2014
  15. j.s.tonehound

    j.s.tonehound Member

    Messages:
    6,796
    Joined:
    Feb 26, 2010
    Location:
    Bright side of the sun
    This thread is good. I've been umming and ahhing about computer audio for a while and now know what I'll need to know and how to ask when I do eventually get myself organised.
     
  16. Klon Solo

    Klon Solo Member

    Messages:
    389
    Joined:
    Nov 20, 2013
    Location:
    Ontario, Canada
    Good thread. I'm glad I read it, cause I would have really wasted peoples' time. I'm off to post a more-educated inquiry.

    BTW, my expertise lies in black paint applications, so the answer to your 'someguy' question is obvious to me. It's a Delorian.
     
    Last edited: Dec 31, 2014
  17. Not Through Yet

    Not Through Yet Member

    Messages:
    1,015
    Joined:
    Apr 1, 2011
    I'm about to ask this question, and am so glad I read this first. Thanks for the help!
     
  18. wire-n-wood

    wire-n-wood Member

    Messages:
    3,325
    Joined:
    Nov 9, 2011
    Location:
    Brisbane, Australia
    This post is too good for me.
     
  19. Zeppe

    Zeppe Member

    Messages:
    318
    Joined:
    Jun 5, 2011
    When a noobie comes asking for which interface the answer will typically be 'Scarlet', 'Duet' etc. He's asking for the best 'all in one' 2-channel package he can get on his budget. And I always keep in mind ease of use, stable drivers, noise, bundled software etc. when making these kinds of recommendations.
     

Share This Page