Audio production on your Mac.

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Who's doing audio on their Mac? I'm curious what you're using for an audio interface as well as any outboard gear.

My company is preparing to do a series of flash animation presentations for several clients and they asked me to do the audio production. Straight voice over music. Although the company has a PC base, I have an iMac we used for trade shows that has been taken out of service. A copy of ProTools Free was downloaded and installed. Now I'm shopping for a USB audio interface, and maybe a good mic pre-amp/processor.

Who's using what and why? Your feedback is appreciated!

tony b.

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Dr. Webster's picture
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For plain, good-sounding audi

For plain, good-sounding audio, the simple combination of a Griffin iMic and a Shure PG58 would work just fine. Total cost is about $100.

BTW, you won't need Pro Tools. It's really a program designed for multitrack music recording. A copy of Felt Tip Software's Sound Studio for OS X would be fine for what you need, and much less cumbersome.

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Don't be overly foolish.

Dr. Webster final shows his ignorance... (an extremely rare thing... I think this may be my first discovery of it)

Avoid iMic. It isn't worth the garbage in the garbage can you will toss it into.
ProTools is what Lucas uses at Skywalker sound, it is versitale and the best you can get on any platform.

From what you've said (the top post) ... I have to answer in different ways.

If you dl-ed ProTools FREE, I am thinking you are using OS 9 or before. If this is the case, pick up an AudioMedia III card from eBay
http://search.ebay.com/AudioMedia-III_W0QQfromZR4QQsosortorderZ1QQsosortpropertyZ1

for a hw interface.
oops, they are still kind of pricy, showing that they are excellent hw that have retained their value... point is, it works with ProTools FREE, making the combo and your results with it sound like Shywalker (titties) if you work it properly (you only have 8 tracks... but that should be pleanty for what you are doing).

As for a microphone, for the cheap (aka dynamic, not condenser) I recommend a Shure Beta 58 (< $100)... or one of the excellent 58 copies. It picks up the lower range of vocal speach nicely. If you have money, and want excellence, use an Audio-Technica 4050 (@$400<)... for the money and versitility, there is no match (under $1000, maybe under $10000).
Remember, regardless of how you record, you will only sound as good as your source (aka microphone).

I have been able to produce decent demo quality recordings using ProTools FREE and a Realsitic (RadioShack) mic pre-amplifier and an 8500. The hw in the old macs is not up to Digidesigns standards, but with what ProTools FREE can do with EQ, I can mask my amateur sound. Garageband doesn't even come CLOSE to ProTools FREE, with regard to the flexibility of the EQ (though Garageband does have sweepable mids, which is the least they could add... I wish there were more without plug ins).

EQ is important, espescially if you are laying a spoken track over music. But it is tricky. Generally speaking, you'd want to leave the vocal (spoken) track natural and not EQed, but CUT certain frequencies from the music, say, a little tiny bit out of 1KHz and even less around 4Khz. Add a tiny bit of reverb or short delay to your vocal track for effect. EXPERIMENT.

If you are using such superior hw as an OS X powerbook, then I cannot recommend enough M-Box from Digidesign:
http://www.digidesign.com/products/mbox/
with the Focusrite mic-pre's and ProTools LE, it is an awesome value (@$400).

But with Garageband and one of the M-Audio hw interfaces, you may be satisfied (about half that). (btw... Digidesign just acquired M-Audio, so now their equipment WILL be up to their standards, keeping in mind that it is consumer level hw)

M-Audio is a way to get more and less than what you'd get with M-Box. More simultaneous imputs (if you were tracking a band or something, M-Box only gives 2 inputs (stereo), but with M-Audio, you can get, uh, like 8 or something... but the quality is slightly less).

Again... avoid iMic, it is a POS.

Most (lay) people can't hear the stuff that bugs the crap out of me, so if you want crap, by all means, use crap to produce it (I LOVE lofi... what happened to it? All those bands got rich in the early '90's and started producing HiFi records... its evolution).

If you want to remain REALLY cheap, and, again, you are using legacy hw to run ProTools FREE, Use the CD Drive to import your music, and get your hands on one of Apple's old computer microphones, and just use the microphone input built in to the machine. The mic IS a bit crispy, but it has a certain amount of fidelity, and you can EQ the boomy freqs back in if you want. Considering that this is for Flash, and probably for web, your sampling rate may not need to be even 44.1 KHz. But always move from higher quality to lower in recording stuff, not the other way.

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). But with Garageband and

).

But with Garageband and one of the M-Audio hw interfaces, you may be satisfied (about half that). (btw... Digidesign just acquired M-Audio, so now their equipment WILL be up to their standards, keeping in mind that it is consumer level hw)

M-Audio is a way to get more and less than what you'd get with M-Box. More simultaneous imputs (if you were tracking a band or something, M-Box only gives 2 inputs (stereo), but with M-Audio, you can get, uh, like 8 or something... but the quality is slightly less).

Again... avoid iMic, it is a POS.

Most (lay) people can't hear the stuff that bugs the crap out of me, so if you want crap, by all means, use crap to produce it (I LOVE lofi... what happened to it? All those bands got rich in the early '90's and started producing HiFi records... its evolution).

If you want to remain REALLY cheap, and, again, you are using legacy hw to run ProTools FREE, Use the CD Drive to import your music, and get your hands on one of Apple's old computer microphones, and just use the microphone input built in to the machine. The mic IS a bit crispy, but it has a certain amount of fidelity, and you can EQ the boomy freqs back in if you want. Considering that this is for Flash, and probably for web, your sampling rate may not need to be even 44.1 KHz. But always move from higher quality to lower in recording stuff, not the other way.

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I am ignorant.

I didn't read your post closely enough.

You are using an iMac, and I don't know if they even have an analoge input... also, I know AudioMedia won't work, because they have no PCI interface.

You're best bet is to check out M-Audio and Garageband (I think, considering the USB interface... but, again, without a plug in, the EQ leaves much to be desired, but you can still get it to sound good.

Good luck,
sorry, Doc, no offence.

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The audio output on the mac i

The audio output on the mac is so noisy that you'd be doing yourself a huge favor to buy a real sound card. There is a Sound Blaster that works well and has a break out box with every kind of audio you'd want (including digital) that digitizes at 96 khz 24 bit.

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We'd be producing these prima

We'd be producing these primarily for the web. But those same presentations might also be delivered to an auditorium full of people through a public address system with greater fidelity than the web. Any faults we overlooked because "it's good enough for the web" could easily be heard under different circumstances. So a faithful audio chain is important to me.

Also, my computer options are a Dell laptop or a G4 iMac, so a card really isn't an option. That means I either use the noisy analog ports (unacceptable), or an external box.

I had a ton of experience in the analog audio domain before the advent of digital audio, so i have limited exposure to the software and digital hardware. Other than the Griffin products, and a look at a high-end ProTools HD system, I'm still trying to get up to speed on A/D conversion.

I have an iMic but I would prefer something a little more versatile and little more durable over the long term.

I borrowed a Powerwave from a friend. I was surprised to find that the "mic" level input isn't sensitive enough for a lo-z pro audio type microphone -- only -30dbu according to the specs -- that's like halfway between a mic level and line level. I have a Shure SM58 and a working vintage Shure 55s with adjustable impedance and neither will drive the Powerwave direct...a pre-amp is required. If I have to get a pre-amp, then I want to avoid the hi-fi/prosumer product and would prefer something from the pro audio world. If I have to do that, then I want an A/D box with pro audio compatibility.

So now I'm looking at external boxes. I like the M-box from Digidesign. Past experience with ProTools free might be the best justification for getting their box along with ProTools LE which is OS X compatible. The mbox has a good mic pre-amp, has inserts for processing, and two channels allows me to work direct through the box or add a mixer later. And, ProTools was exclusively a MacOS product for a long time.

I also saw Roland's line of Edirol products and I really liked the UA series of products. Does anyone have any experience with these? They have a rack mount USB interface and a rack mount firewire box along with some desktop boxes.

There were some other names -- m-audio was one of them -- but I'm not familiar with any of the other brands, However, a ringing endorsement or fiery condemnation from an Applefritter user would be helpful!

tony b.

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Tascam

I use a Tascam US-428 http://www.tascam.com/ComputerRecording.html. Pretty nifty, on one USB connection and for one price, gives you four audio ins and two outs, four MIDI ports, a jog wheel and a bunch of knobs and faders that integrate with (ie control things in) your software. There's info in the support pages about using it with PTFree. I can't speak for the quality of the mic preamps (there are two) as I do most of my work at line-level.

If four ins is overkill, the 224 or one of the other devices at that site might work well for you.

The maximum sample rate is 24 bits at 48kHz. There's also a S/PDIF port for connecting digital audio devices, but it doesn't count as an extra I/O. I've found the analogue audio quality to be pretty high.

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I'll look at the Tascam...

Thanks Dr. B! I'll look at the Tascam.

tony b.

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Re: We'd be producing these prima

yotonyb wrote:

We'd be producing these primarily for the web.

...which is why you'd be wasting your money if you buy anything terribly expensive. There's nothing wrong with an iMic--the audio input is plenty clean for what you need.

Quote:

I have a Shure SM58 and a working vintage Shure 55s with adjustable impedance and neither will drive the Powerwave direct...a pre-amp is required.

A '58 is perfect. Beta 58s are nice, but unnecessary, and no, they are *not* sub-$100. You'll really only get the benefit that the Beta 58 provides in a live setting (the B58 is supercardioid, the 58 is cardioid).

Since you have an iMic and a PowerWave, I'd just invest in a good mixer. Mackie and Behringer make nice, clean-sounding mixers, and you could pick up a Behringer with two mic preamps for under $70.

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iMic still a POS

Copies of SB58s CAN be had for less than $100.
The real things are not much more...
http://cgi.ebay.com/ws/eBayISAPI.dll?ViewItem&category=41468&item=3757697701&rd=1
and worth every penny.

I'll never understand the "good enough" theory. Subsequently it was stated that the projects may be broadcast over a PA, in which case... iMic is still a POS. It is $2 worth of technology (and that is being generous) marked up 1400%. If it was only a few dollars, that's one thing... but its not. I'm sorry you bought one... I know that misery loves company, but give it a rest. Some care about their ears more than others.

And I've heard so many nice things about Tascam...
http://www.macworld.com/2001/04/bc/18reviewsus428/

just a controller, but I want one of these things...

Here's the review of the DA stuff
http://www.macworld.com/news/2001/02/05/studio/index.php

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I'm not sure what your beef i

I'm not sure what your beef is with the iMic. I tested mine and it worked great. It's only weakness is the switch that selects mic level or line level. If you hardwire past this guy, the fidelity is really fantastic.

However, if you want professional quality input, go pick up a USBPre

http://www.usbpre.com/

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That usbpre looks nice. I've

That usbpre looks nice. I've been curious for a while- how do products like that and the Mbox get 48v phantom power for mics out of the 5v on the USB bus? Pardon my ignorance.

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its junk

Latency and sound quality, 1/8" (mini) analog stereo connectors (which, in general, suck).
Again, if it was only $10, that'd be ok. But its a rip off. I know its fine for people who don't realize what they hear. Everyone thinks because they have ears they are experts in sound.
rant--
I'll never get over Lenny Kravitz (and other artists) self-producing their records (after their hi-fi successful releases made by experts), and then not realizing how bad they sound. Weezer's Pinkerton, for example. Love the songs... but why didn't it break 50,000 record sales when their previous record went, like, triple platinum? Because they didn't know what they were doing when they self-produced, and, technically, it sounds like poo. If you don't know why, then your ears are not trained. What these artists are attempting to do is similar to a brain surgeon trying to operate on himself, except... its an amateur brain surgeon and this is his first operation.
If you are not an audio expert, backed up by studying and referencing audio for at the very least a couple of hard years, then please don't pretend that you are.

I think the original poster has some audio experience, and in analog, which is important, so I really believe after trying iMic, he'd give the thing to his dog to chew on...

And that USBPre looks cool... simple, straight forward... the correct connectors, great bit-depth, phantom power, zero latency... I bet it sounds nearly like nothing at all, which is the goal, that is, having equipment that is transparent to the best of listeners.

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All right

Throw down your credentials. If you are going to be so condescending, back it up. I tested the iMic at the sound lab at apple and other than noise brought in by the input selector switch (which could easily be bypassed) the device performed incredibly well. Sure you need good connectors, but that goes for any device.

I'm not an audio expert, but I'm far from a layman. They guy who conducted the test was a real expert who's so smart he makes most people's brains hurt.

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Re: All right

drbob wrote:

Throw down your credentials. If you are going to be so condescending, back it up....
I'm not an audio expert, but I'm far from a layman.

Amen. I've been dealing with pro sound equipment for at least 10 years. I may not work at a recording studio, and I may not have gone to school for it, but I know my stuff. That elitist "you don't know anything" attitude will get you nowhere.

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In fact it makes me suspiciou

In fact it makes me suspicious. Every person I've known of wizard level knowledge status never once had a need to take on such a superior condescending tone. Every blowhard I've encountered uses exactly those tactics to try to intimidate people who are a little uncertain about what they know.

So, I want verifiable credentials.

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no one way

Credentials first, before I jump into this: I've worked in a studio, built the patch bays for one of the first digital studios in Toronto (Pro Tools and a Q950), I've had my post work on TV and worked on a few indy music releases. Graduated college Production Sound with As.

Just like car mechanics, you take three sound technicians aside and ask their opinion on something, you'll likely get three different answers. There's no one way to do something, and no guarantee that buying the best will give you the best. Creative solutions are more valuable than perfect equipment.

Yeah, 1/8" jacks are bottom of the barrel, but so what - they still do the job, and usually do it without trouble. They're just consumer-level instead of pro-level. XLRs exist for those who need it and can afford it.

Heck, if I were doing yotonyb's project, and I was on a tight budget, I'd slap it together with the iMac and free Pro Tools with a cheap-butt Yamaha MM10 mixer equivalent. It's only going web and possibly P.A. with dialogue and pre-recorded music. My money is, no one will notice or care if there's any noise that the PA system itself doesn't introduce. And that's the concept of 'good enough'. Outside of the music recording area, time and money are often as important, and sometimes more important, than getting 'studio quality'. You do enough to get the job done in the time you've got, because there's usually another project right behind it.

A bit of advice: Expertise offered earns respect. Expertise flaunted earns contempt, especially if there are other experts in the room.

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Strangly, an aging Quadra 840

Strangly, an aging Quadra 840Av has far better audio in and recording capabilites than any powermac / 68k mac. Yes its slow, but the onboard hardware has hardly any noise at all. Infact, the low noise is as good as high end sound recording cards. To get comparible quality on a modern mac one would need a decent dedicated PCI card.

Apple really did give the 840av decent Audio capabilities.

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yep

Having worked at Apple through much of that time period, I can honestly say, Yep, your observation is absolutely correct. It was a concious decision to reduce the costs and thats why each generation is worse than the one before it.

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what you did last

"So, I want verifiable credentials."

There is hardly any such thing. The only sound guys that get real credit for anything have left the music industry and are working in the movie industry (where there seems to be a decent level of honesty, pseudonyms notwithstanding).

The music industry is a dirty business... though I think it is changing (after having changed quite a bit).

I've built 4 analog studios, tuned control rooms, wired patch-bays, rebuilt transducers in 24-track machines. I've made 18 national quality records over a 2 year period (now, about 10 years ago), of which you will have heard of zero. The one record I worked on that actually made it into KROK's rotation was swindled away, and none of the engineers got credit (or the musicians, for that matter). I believe they (the original artists) sold it all away, lock stock and barrel, and the fellas I see in the videos singing the songs are not the dudes that recorded the tracks. And my name is nowhere to be found. But I did Sex and Candy, and 3 other tracks on that record. I have been a professional engineer subsequently, working for studios here and there, a little light opera, other stuff, but have lost my drive to take money from poor musicians, and have shrunk back into amateur recording... but I can still make things sound like titties.

You're a smart guy, Dr. Bob... a little too smart, maybe. I have nothing but respect for your hacks and your advice, and if iMic is good for you, then that's just great. My opinion stands... it is garbage. Also, whomever says that 1/8" jacks gets the job done is an underachiever. I have to use them from time to time, and I hate it. Lay 3 tracks with an 1/8" connector, and you can start to hear it pretty obviously. At 20 tracks, half the sound you hear is the damn connector. But you have a good point, in that I haven't done anything lately, and therefore I am irrelevant. Thank God.

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Let's simmer down...

I know everybody in this thread from previous topics, and you don't need to "represent". Your opinions and observations are ALL important to me, and ALL are EQUALLY VALUABLE to me, regardless of your background or qualifications. Nothing is gained by starting an on-line brawl over this thread...it's just not that important. Please weigh-in with your opinions without the personal attacks and snide comments. I'm willing to spend the time to learn the advantages and shortcomings of each product based on my requirements.

Now...group hug...

tony b.

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Re: Let's simmer down...

yotonyb wrote:

Now...group hug...

{homer voice}
Okay...it's just...I've never hugged a man before
{/homer voice}

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I am critical

I, for one, apologize for being an arrogant POS, I can't believe myself sometimes...
but I swear, I work for the Forces of Good, and I will never let the Good Man down

the hero has plenty to offer him advice upon his journey, but the man of faith walks alone, in fear and trembling

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The Beige G3 had much better

The Beige G3 had much better sound. And I used to use (the G5 doesnt have a spare 5.25" slot) a flashed Creative Audigy Platinum. That has studio sound, amazing, the second best (only beaten by the Audigy 2) recording quality ever. The only problem is the fact that it takes up 2 PCI slots and a 5.25" drive bay.

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(Jon dredges up an old thread

(Jon dredges up an old thread to make a quick point)

Quote:

But I did Sex and Candy, and 3 other tracks on that record.

So is that why MP are only one hit wonders? They didn't really have their own hit, eh?

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Use Sound Studio

I use Sound Studio to import sound and do general editing of my music for my Music Videos. It has all the stuff I need to reduce noise and stuff like that (plus it was free to me since it came on my iBook.) ;D

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my 2c

If all you need is to produce a simple voice over for a presentation then the iMic is suffcient. At work we have one on a quicksilver machine effectivly for this type of work. In terms of quality, espcially in an auditorum it is quite good.

My software pic if you can get your hands on it is garageband. once again simple to use. I've seen students in media classes record pretty good quality demos with it.

At home i use a tascam us-458 and personally think they are great...