Detailing Your Home Recording Digital Options - dummies

Detailing Your Home Recording Digital Options

By Jeff Strong

Even with the fast pace of today’s technology, one thing is for sure in the home recording world: Digital is here to stay. Digital recording has become the standard for home recordists and most commercial studios. And the format of choice is hard drive because it has many advantages over the other forms of digital recording.

Not only does hard-drive recording create a great sound, but it’s also relatively inexpensive, especially compared with an equivalent-sounding studio from 15 to 20 years ago.

Regardless of the type of digital recording system that you like, consider the following things before buying:

  • Editing capabilities: Some systems allow very fine editing of audio data, while others offer less. If you want so much control that you can edit down to the waveform — which basically means being able to edit out a single note or even just a part of a note — look for a system with that capability. If such control is less important to you, take a pass on such systems.

    Along with the actual editing capabilities, find out how this editing is done. Is it on a tiny LCD screen or can it be done on a large computer monitor? Of course, if you won’t be doing a lot of editing, this feature may not be important to you.

  • Compatibility: Compatibility between the various parts of your system (the recorder and sequencer or the software and sound card, for instance) or between your studio and other studios (your friend’s or a commercial studio) is an important issue for many people and one that may come back to bite you if you don’t consider it before you buy a system

  • Number of simultaneous tracks: Even though a recorder may say it has 16 tracks, it may not be able to actually record that number of tracks at one time. Most studio-in-a-box recorders, for example, record fewer tracks than they can play back at once.

  • Realistic track count: If you end up considering a computer-based system, the number of tracks that a computer software program is advertised to record and how many tracks you can actually record with your computer are often two very different things. Find out beforehand what a realistic track count is with the CPU (processor) and RAM (memory) that you have so that you’re not disappointed.

    The best way to do this is to go to online forums (you can find some by typing audio recording forum in your favorite search engine) or talk to other users in your area to see what their real-world experiences are.

  • Sample rate and bit depth: The sample rate and the bit depth of the system determine the sound quality that it can record. Most semipro and pro systems have a 24-bit resolution and the ability to record at several bandwidths — 32, 44.1, 48, 88.2, and 96 kHz, for instance. The number of tracks may vary depending on what bandwidth setting you choose.

  • Expandability: As you learn and grow as a musician and recording engineer, your needs also grow. Knowing this, your best bet is to plan ahead and choose a system that can grow with you. You’ll find that almost all the new semipro and pro systems available are expandable, but research carefully if you look at purchasing used gear.