New multitrack wanted: hardware vs. software approach?

Discussion in 'Recording/Live Sound' started by GibsonLives, Jan 26, 2013.

  1. GibsonLives

    GibsonLives Member

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    This is going to be a long post; I'll try like hell not to make it any longer than necessary.

    I've been playing the guitar for nearly 30 years, and recording original tunes for more than a dozen years. Having said that, my "home studio" has never been anything to write home about; I started with a Tascam 4-track cassette recorder in the late '90s, and moved on to my current setup - a Zoom MRS802CD (8-track digital with built-in CD-RW drive).

    I also tried some Cakewalk software specifically geared toward guitarists in the early '00s, but whether it was the software or my system, it was unusable because of drag (the tracks would not stay in the tempo in which they were recorded), and editing was something I was never entirely able to get a grip on. For these reasons, I really won't count the Cakewalk, except as a reason why I'm a bit nervous about going the software route again.

    Anyway, I recently bought a Roland GR-55/GC-1 Strat rig, and it's really gotten the creative juices flowing all over again. The Zoom actually doesn't sound bad when I DI the synth rig, and there's always the Bounce function, but I'd really like better sound-quality as well as more tracks so I can keep the raw data around in case I want to tweak stuff later without having a bunch of sounds fixed on a single track.

    I've heard a ton of nightmare scenarios from others who have taken the software approach, but it's probably far more versatile once you get the hang of it. I'm running Win7 on a newish laptop, but that's all I have as opposed to a dedicated desktop system, so again, I'm really not sure.

    Here's what I need:

    * At least 24 tracks
    * CD-R drive built in (obviously, I'm covered if I go software)
    * High sound-quality (Duh! LOL)
    * Built-in programmable drumbeats (Zoom has this, and I'm no percussionist, so I've gotta fake it somehow)
    * Large hard drive (again, this only applies to a hardware approach)
    * I'd love to spend less than a grand, but I'm flexible to a degree

    Thanks to all who have read through all of this, and for any information you can give someone who wants a high-quality, hassle-free way to put some newfound musical ideas down without spending a fortune.

    Steve
     
  2. mattball826

    mattball826 Member

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    for feel of tradional multitrack recorders:
    used roland vs2480 2400cd. or tascam makes 24 track recorders new.

    i bought used roland 2480cd with fx expansion boards for less than $700.

    you can buy many audio interfaces. some come with multi ins and outs. many come with recording daw software. i would recommend dedicated desktop pc for recording.
     
  3. GibsonLives

    GibsonLives Member

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    Mattball, thanks. I've only begun to research my options (I'm so out of the loop, having used the same Zoom multitrack since I bought it way back in '03), and technology is moving so quickly. Seems every time I hear about a promising unit (say, the Zoom R24 or the Tascam 2488 neo), I learn that they've already gone out of production, having been replaced with something still newer. I see Tascam's newest offerings are the DP24 and DP32, but again, I've just started reading up on them to see what they can and cannot do. The old Zoom was bought as a mere step up in sound-quality from the cassette recorder I had before; this time, I really want something more powerful that I can "grow into". That said, my (admittedly limited) exposure to computer-based DAWs did not go well...and as you (and others) say, a dedicated PC is your best bet, and I'm just not sure I've got the money, space, or wherewithal to go that route. I'll continue to look into it, and would appreciate any additional suggestions folks are willing to throw at me :).
    Steve
     
  4. mattball826

    mattball826 Member

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    i would go roland if you have some experience with mtr's. tascam dp series are good too. they just lack the supporting tools for pro level recording imo. those old roland vs series units were about $3000 new and completely automated. desktop daws and audio interfaces took over and killed that market.

    the roland units can connect up to a computer monitor and can be controlled as any daw. many still using the 2400, 2480 series are using 30" lcd tv's for monitor support. it looks great and works like a pro desk. roland vs recorders are about as serious as you get in desktop mtr's. zoom and tascam are featured, but not anything close even by today standards.

    vs2480 for ex, can record 16 simultaneous tracks. you need a pair of high quality interfaces and a fast well tuned computer to do that today. 2480 can run 16,24 bit and at some of the highest current day recording sample rates. many that exceed todays audio interfaces.
     
  5. GibsonLives

    GibsonLives Member

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    I've looked at a few of the old Rolands. Wow, what an awesomely powerful machine! I am a tad concerned about dropping that kind of coin on something used, since the durability of intricate and rather delicate electronic gear such as that is never known; I'd hate to pick one up and start having major problems a few months down the road. Anyway, I've seen the 24-tracks with CD-R selling at not much more than a grand. Thanks for letting me know there's a high-end option out there which might fit my budget.
    Steve
     
  6. mattball826

    mattball826 Member

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    my vs2480cd i bought used. guy sold it cheap when everyone else was buying rackmount interfaces for computer daw. he tossed in vs8f3 cards too. about $700.

    on recording forums people are going for these again. demand going up again because they use these for tracking. its cheaper than buying recording interfaces and extension units to get that 16 track simultaneous recording option.

    what they are doing is buying mtr gear to track, and better stereo interfaces with less i/o options or pci interfaces for their mixdown and computer daw.

    vs2480 etc have many tools for mixing and mastering. very uniform from a hardware perspective. they also can be controllers for many daw software.

    the joy of the vs hardware is its dedicated hardware for that purpose. it works flawlessly. i have recorded entire bands and then exported tracks for other computer daws. the vs mic pre's are great too.
     
  7. GibsonLives

    GibsonLives Member

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    Hmmmm sounds like a real dream machine. Another fear I have in insisting on SIAB solutions is that this approach is starting to disappear. Currently, I don't find anything that fits all of my criteria (CD-R, drum-track/built-in rhythms), and that which I am seeing - such as the newest offerings from Tascam and Zoom - seem to be pretty much about the same quality as my old Zoom, only with more tracks. On the one hand, the Roland VS mtrs are awfully pricey, and with them being used, you're pretty much on your own should something go wrong; on the other hand, one of these would probably bridge the gap between wanting to avoid a computer-based DAW and still having a highly professional system. In fact, it's possible something like this could end up being my final multitracking purchase. Thanks again.
    Steve
     
  8. Rod

    Rod Tone is Paramount Supporting Member

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    I love hardware recorders with real mixer boards.....my friends have protools and they take up way to much time and effort... i guess i am old school... so... www.hellomusic.com was selling the 24 track Tascams for $588....!!!!! Last I looked they still had some.. the frequency response should me the same.
     
  9. mattball826

    mattball826 Member

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    you can get used alesis sr16 cheap. used boss dr-880 for about $275. dr880 is a more complete drum machine. i have both alesis and boss dr880 as well as yamaha e drum kit. dr880 provides drum, bass and guitar amp modeling.

    vs2480 provides for "discrete drums" which are kit sample grooves you can add to tracks.

    vs2000cd had built in drum machine, vocal harmonizers, and guitar modeling and effects processing.

    vs2400 and 2480 series did away with drum machine on 2000cd that was more what was on their keyboards for accompaniment grooves than it was a building platform for sequencers.

    dr880 is the best drum machine sequencer still today imo.
     
  10. GibsonLives

    GibsonLives Member

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    Thanks again. I had a bit of a brain-fart tonight, and just finished typing up a post asking about the feasibility of doing some intensive multitrack recroding using an iPad. Granted, I don't own an iPad, but depending on the type of feedback I get, that solution would certainly take care of the dedicated DAW computer, portability, and compatibility problems. As mentioned at the end of that thread, I feel like I've been asleep for the past decade, and that recroding technology has completely passed me by. Now, I'm trying to wake up and figure out which options arecost-effective, not completely obsolete (in case I ever need to interface with another system), and won't leave me pulling my hair out with insane learning curves. Thanks again...I'll check out these suggestions now :).
    Steve
     
  11. GibsonLives

    GibsonLives Member

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    Rod, by the way, I just went onto and signed up with HelloMusic (thanks again for the tip), and they're actually blowing out the Tascam DP24 for $549 right now, $50 cheaper than Sweetwater. It's quite a deal, but I'd rather take my time than save a few bucks; there's just too much to consider right now, and I'd hate to regret it later :).
    Steve
     
  12. mattball826

    mattball826 Member

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    ipad is more novelty than anything else. you can buy a laptop with an i5 processor and 100x the capability of the ipad for the same price. you also have to accessorize the ipad and its not really a good audio interface option for pro recording. you can get decent recordings, but its nothing near how it is marketed.

    you wold be better served with your zoom imo.

    if considering a computer base daw, options galore. platforms for both pc and mac are about an even keel today imo. hardware for both are similar and have similar capability. it comes down to choice of audio interfaces. those choices depend on how many tracks you want to record at once. if single or two input at once recording you have many great options in usb or firewire. higher track counts with vst's etc will require more computer spec and a better spec on the audio interface. again, a reason the vs recorders are becoming in demand. can record 16 tracks at once on a device less expensive than pairing higher end interfaces (which most have 8 input max recording capability).

    daw software ranges in selection and options. some interfaces come with le versions of software daw. they are great for most users.

    you need the high end daw processing when you get into synths, plugins (effects mostly), and virtual instruments (drums , pianos, synths, etc). these demand resources and higher spec computers.

    track count matters. low spec sys will not run high track counts. most computers on low side starve resources at 16 tracks with vsti's applied. newer computers in the i3 to i5 processors on 64 bit daw with 8-16gb ram are very capable machines. you can find that in laptops too. problem with laptops are peripheral connectivity limitations.
     
  13. GibsonLives

    GibsonLives Member

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    Yeah, it's sounding more and more like maybe I should just stick with a new Tascam for simplicity's sake, or spend considerably more and get a used Roland VS, which would more than likely suit my needs for life (unless it dies before I do, that is). The trouble is that I'm a "what if" guy, which always causes me to consider and reconsider and then consider some more. "What if I want to time-stretch without it sounding warbly and useless like the Zoom?"; "What if my needs change, and I need something compatible with a popular computer-based DAW?"; "What if I spend a ton of money on a dedicated computer, software, an interface, etc., and my tragically non-techy self can't get the hang of it?" I'm just talking out loud here lol...just thoughts that won't go away.
    Steve
     
  14. Motterpaul

    Motterpaul Tone is in the Ears

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    Just FYI... the "write to CD option" is going way out of style. These days the mix solution is to just create a stereo 16-bit 44.1kHz stereo interleave .wav file.

    This file can them be put on your computer for listening at any time, or ripped to a CD on your computer, or "saved as" an MP3 file and put on your iPod (or whatever headset you use to listen to music).

    I'm just saying, by dropping that requirement you get a lot more hardware choices.

    I have the Zoom R-24, but it is not that easy to sequence drums so I wouldn't really recommend it to you. I would look at one of the newer "all in one" multitrack recorders with full built in drum machine of the H-line of Zoom. Basically a newer version of what you already have.

    It sounds you will get along with them better than a software solution. I also have Protools which I love for getting deep into a mix, but for quick songwriting and recording you can't beat the all in one unit (Zoom).

    Roland, Tascam, Akai, there are many other options as well.

    As for your "what if's" = most of the devices make it very easy to import a session to a DAW. I was really surprised how fast I could create a ProTools session from my ZOOM. Basically, I just transferred the files to my ProTools computer and imported them into a new session as audio files. It popped right up. They were all already 24-bit 44.1kHz .wav files - a common file for ProTools, so no conversion or anything else was needed. Furthermore, when I was done editing the files I consolidated them and exported them back to the Zoom. Couldn't have been easier.
     
  15. GibsonLives

    GibsonLives Member

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    Thanks, all.

    I'm still torn between taking the "easy way out" with the Tascam DP24/32 or buying a dedicated laptop (which I'm fairly convinced I'd need) and jumping into the unfamiliar world of computer-based DAW. I've talked with a few people, and the general consensus is that Studio One is probably the easiest entry-point for someone who's never used the computer method, but it still looks daunting. Luckily (to the extent that not having enough money right now is considered luck lol), I've got time. So, I'm beginning the process of reading manuals for both Tascam and Studio One. I may also pick up a few peripherals I'll need either way (looking at mics. right now, since I've traditionally recorded EVERYTHING that needs micing with - don't laugh! - the Shure SM58 I've had laying around forever; a quality mic. to be sure, but, like all mics., not suited to all applications). Basically, I feel trapped no matter what I do; either I go for the Tascam and fall further behind the curve insofar as what's available these days, or go the software approach and risk losing my mind (and my studio budget) on something I might never be able to get the hang of. I'm just venting again, as I realize that nobody can tell me what will ultimately work for me except me. You've all been a great help :).
    Steve
     
  16. Flogger59

    Flogger59 Member

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    The Zoom R24 isn't an option? It'll give you the best of both worlds.
     
  17. Motterpaul

    Motterpaul Tone is in the Ears

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    The Zoom R24 is indeed a very user-friendly machine, except for the drum machine.

    I have found, however, that recording on the Zoom and porting it to a DAW (to create the drum loop sequencing rather than doing it on the R24 and to fine-tune other performances) is a piece of cake, so I am enjoying using mine.
     
  18. GibsonLives

    GibsonLives Member

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    The Zoom might be cool if its UI follows previous mtrs of theirs (I've currently got the MRS802CD). I also dig the compact size (relative to the Tascams). But not having a built-in CDRW drive or a decent drum-machine are two major strikes against it for me personally. The Tascam's at least got the drive. I've also been intrigued by the NI Maschine of late (I've posted about this in the Recording/Live Sound forum to see what others think), so I suppose I could live without the drums, but to have neither just seems like a pain to me. I don't think the Tascam DP24 is much more than the Zoom R24 pricewise (I'm gradually talking myself out of the DP32 since I realistically can't see myself ever needing that many tracks; having 32 tracks would, at best, only tempt me to try to fill them all, which wouldn't help in most cases). Anyone with experience with the Zoom and Tascam units notice a difference in sound-quality or other features I should think about? It's just me, so I don't need more than two inputs at any time, but all the new SIAB units seem to have a ton of inputs, so it really doesn't matter. Thanks again for any help.
    Steve
     
  19. Rod

    Rod Tone is Paramount Supporting Member

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    Falling further behind the curve??? really??... get something to record that's Easy and you will make better music..
     
  20. Joseph Hanna

    Joseph Hanna Member

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    This is of course very true. The assumption however that stand-alone recorders are inherently easier than DAW solutions is not.

    This whole thread is based on the presumption that stand alone recorders (albiet "behind the curve") are in fact easier to use than DAW's. For purposes of the OP's original questions I find that tenuous at best. I've got no problem with stand alones to be sure and they are unquestionably the right solution for those that find themselves helplessly and hopelessly computer challenged. On the other hand stand alones are without questions eons and eons behind in total capabilities when compared to even the most fundamental of DAW's.

    Of course not everyone will need the totality of what DAW solutions provide but I do think the OP probably should be much better informed about the capabilities he'd leave behind before "every stand alone fan" jumps in and convinces him (or her) to continue his trepidations regarding software solutions.
     

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