Digital Audio Questions

 

What is Analog Recording?

What is Digital Recording?

Types of Digital Audio Systems

How can I get rid of the delay when I monitor thru my sound card?

Can I get one pair of speakers for both studio and live performance?

 Ten Basic Recording Tips

 

 

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Q: What is Analog Recording?

A: Every Audio recording process converts audio into some type of storage media. This is so we can hear it again whenever we chose. Before we could record sound (audio) a person had to recreate the performance, ie the storyteller or muscian. That performance data was first passed on orally. the elders teaching the young the tribal history as stories or legends.. When we learned to write, it became tablets, scrolls and books. The problem with this was you didn't get the real thing, ie Jesus's sermons as he said them, rather what was written down by those present. The first type of direct recording of a performance came just in the last hundred years. It allows us to hear the person or group perform at any time exactly as it orginally did. In effect, a preserved account in it's orginal form, not colored by any third party.

What most people refer to as Analog recording is using tape, though vinyl records are also analog recordings. Analog Tape Recording on analog tape converts audio to constantly changing magnetic fluctuations. Although this process has been in use for many years, it has some inherent problems:

· Hiss on original tape and more in each copy

· Wow and flutter of tape media

· Degradation of tape over time

· Maintenance: regular cleaning and adjustment

· Linear access: to get from Introduction to the Ending, you must go through all of your verses and choruses

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Q: What is Digital Recording?

A. Digital Recording is most often thought of as music on an audio CD. However, Audio CDs are only the storage medium. It could be stored on Tape (digitally as in an ADAT), a Hard Drive (as in Pro Tools) or other mediums. Digital Recording changes sound to numbers. The device that does is called am Analog to Digital Convertor. To change the numbers back to audio you use a Digital to Analog Convertor. This process has some distinct advantages over analog recording:

 

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Types of Digital Audio Systems

Digital Tape Recorders such as Alesis ADATs and Tascam DA88 have certain advantages:

They do have disadvantages:

 

MiniDisk Based Systems like Sony and Tascam are designed to be the cassette multitrack porta studios successor. They record onto a data-type MiniDisk. A MiniDisk is a small removable Hard Drive.

Their Advantages:

Their Disadvantages:

Next to Tape based Digital Recorders, the most popular form of Digital Recording is Hard Disk Recorders (HDRs). Recording to hard disk has many advantages over the other types of digital recorders. These recorders really open the doors to your creativity.

There are three basic types of Hard Disk Recorders: Digital Audio Workstations, MIDI/Audio Sequencers and Dedicated (Stand-alone) Hard Disk Recorders.

Digital Audio Workstations such as Pro Tools, Soundscape Digital, TripleDat etc

Their Advantages:

Their Disadvantages:

Dedicated Hard Disk Recorders

Stand alone systems designed specifically for audio recording and editing. Dedicated HDRs range from units that are basically recorders alone, to workstations (all-in-one boxes with mixers with faders and knobs and digital effects).

Their Advantages:

Their Disadvantages:

 

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Q: How can I get rid of the delay (latency) when I monitor thru my sound card?

A. The amount of delay (latency) you hear when you monitor thru your sound card is controled by the speed of your computer system (not just the mHz of the CPU), the software program and drivers you're using and your card. The reason you hear this in the first place is because of the way most Digital Audio programs are written. The first two important tasks for the software is to get the audio on and off the hard drive and thru the computer with precise timing. Therefore monitoring and screen redraws are secondary hence the delay.

The amount of delay (latency) may be controled by the drivers so you can check in their control panel if you're using ASIO or similar drivers. However host based systems have trade offs and you may find that by getting the delay down, you could lose the number of tracks your can playback, record, effects you can use or software synths. There's only so much time the CPU has before it has to "let go" of the audio sample and move on to the next one. If you card offers a direct monitoring option (usually because there is a processor on the card to mix audio, ie MIDIMAN Delta cards, ProTools Mix, Creamware Pulsar, etc). You can turn off the software monitoring thru the card via the software/driver and monitor via the mixer on the card where there isn't any delay. This won't cost you any tracks, efxs, synths because the CPU isn't involved and in the case of some cards may help you get more tracks, efxs, synths (ie Pulsar, ProTools Mix). You may have to use the card's mixer to control the overal levels because audio program's mixer may not be able to control the card's hardware mixer, a minor annoyance compared to the delay.

You can also use a different method, monitor thru your external mixer instead of the sound card.. By using a multi buss mixer such as a Behringer 2004, Mackie 1202VLZ or better, you can send independent outputs to both the playback system and the sound card and mix the output of the sound card and input of new record tracks at the same time to your playback systemwithout delays.You will need to turn off monitoring thru your sound card in your software/drivers for this to work.

 

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Q: Can I get one pair of speakers for both studio and live performance?

A: They are really mutually exclusive. Studio monitors have to be accurate with a good frequency response. You want to hear every little thing in your mix or the track you've recorded. PA speakers designed for durability, and loudness. Even at major concerts you'll notice that the record music doesn't sound anywhere as good as your home stereo. If this was really a doable task by a single set of speakers, manufacturers won't make both types of speakers. This doesn't mean you can't use studio monitors as PA speakers or PA speakers as studio monitors.you can but you'll be losing fidelity or durablility by using one for both. For serious studios or loud venues, you won't or can't combine the uses in a single set of speakers.

 

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Ten Basic Recording Tips

1. Use the right equipement for the task for the best result . For example, don't use a guitar efx processor for a vocal efx compressor or vice versa. Many efx processors are design for both but some are just one or the other. Don't use drum mic for a vocal mic, etc. Don't mix -10 and +4 levels. They're different in more ways than the connections. Unless you're trying for a "different" or special efx sound, using the wrong tool will make your recording sound less than you want them to. This related to.......Tip #2.
 
2. Learn to use your gear. Also known as RTFM! (Read The F____ Manual!) While most manufacturers want you to believe they have the only product to do a task, the reality is there are many devices that do the same thing, if you know how to make them do it. TC Electronics' Finalizer is nothing more than a preset mastering processor that contains among others,: a compressor, limiter and EQ. Learning to use the gear you have can save you money and get the sound that will make others think you're a genius!
 
3. Learn what sound is and isn't. Most professional engineers go to school to learn the physics of sound, you can too. Or at least buy one or two of the many books on sound. Our link page has some usefull links as well.
 
4. Learn how to record. I'm not repeating myself...... How sound works is different than recording it. Understanding sound will make it easier to get good recording. But there are many techniquies for recording and you should learn as many as you can.
 
5. Learn how to mix. Again I'm not repeating myself, These are different but related. Understanding sound will make it easier to get good mix. But there are many techniquies for mixing and you should learn as many as you can.
 
6. Listen to recordings of solo instruments, duos, quartets, etc in different musical styles to train your ear to hear why the styles sound the way they do. If possible find out as much as possible about how the recording were made.
 
7. Find a mentor, even if he's only a bit more experienced or schooled, there's much to learn and having a mentor will help. You can always find a more experienced mentor as you get more experienced and schooled. Your mentor can show you things that aren't in books or classes as well as be a sounding board for your ideas.
 
8. Be open to letting others hear you recordings, even "non musicians/engineers" can offer you feedback about what your recording sound like. Everyone's ears are different so what sounds groundbreaking to you might sound like noise to others.
 
9. Never buy gear because it's "hip" or "Pro". Real engineers know even cheap or old gear have a place in a studio since it's all about sound. Manufacturers want you to keep buying (so they can stay in business) so their marketing dept ads do their best to convince you that the latest gear will make your recording better than anything you have. If you remember Tip #2 you'll save money and make better recording.
 
10. Never think you know it all. There's always new ways to use old gear, new gear can give you new ways to do old tasks, etc. Being closed minded only makes you self important,

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