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"I'm having trouble with my computer and audio interface? Can you help?"

A Record-Producer.com visitor is having problems with his computer. In other news, the sun rose this morning...


Question from a Audio Masterclass visitor...

Dear David,

Hi, my name is Ryan and I just recently joined your site. I have been having problems with soundcards for my laptop. The first one I bought was the m-audio 1814 firewire. I had a few problems with this card with the PC not seeing it and such. I then returned it and am now sitting with the Mackie Spike (XD-2) and the MOTU 828mkII (the retail store is letting me test them). I have had trouble with the mackie, and frankly I don't see the value in buying the motu when the software only works on Mac (plus I am running windows XP service pack 2, which has a reputation for incompatibility with firewire devices). I am now wanting to get something that doesn't rely on a PC.

I saw that you recommended Yamaha digital consoles. I have had a look at the Yamaha AW16G and I am impressed, though I am not sure of everything that is involved in purchasing it. I saw the sampling rate is only 44.1. Is this a real problem with regards to audio quality. Also, what is the recorded file format, and can files be transferred from it too my laptop (vice versa) and if so, how? Is it a good buy in the big picture.

FREE EBOOK - Equipping Your Home Recording Studio

Equipping Your Home Recording Studio

Thank you very much for your help

Ryan Solomons

David Mellor's reply...

Why do people record on computers?

Because it's cheap, simple as that. If computer recording didn't exist, there would be a greater range of workstations available, but they would always be comparatively expensive simply because they need more hardware components.

The problem with recording on computers is that there are so many variable factors - the audio interface, computer, hard disk, hard disk driver, disk interface, operating system and recording software.

Any incompatibility and it's not going to work properly.

So the very best way to record on a computer is to buy a complete system from a dealer. If you get a problem, go back to the dealer to sort it out - they sold you a recording system and they have a responsibility to ensure that it works.

A good second best is to use a computer that you can be sure will work well for recording. That could be a Macintosh - the range of Mac models is always very small and a manufacturer or software developer can test their products on every type of Mac.

It could be a Windows computer assembled by a company that specializes in computers for audio. If their products don't work well for audio, they will go bust, so they have every incentive to get it right.

If you choose any old computer, then you really should expect problems. Yes, expect problems. Once you do get your system working don't change anything! If you can stick to that simple rule you will enjoy problem-free recording every day.

Regarding 44.1 kHz sampling. This is a red herring thrown to you by the manufacturing industry. Of course they want you to feel as though 44.1 is inadequate so you will buy their new 96 kHz products.

The reality is that most professionals use 44.1 kHz sampling for multitrack recording because they can get more tracks and use more plug-ins on their Pro Tools systems.

Mixing via an analog console to a 96 kHz or even 192 kHz system would be beneficial however. This puts the quality of the recording beyond any possible doubt of adequacy.

Transferring tracks between hardware systems and computer systems is often possible. The Tascam MX2424 for example produces files that transfer easily to Pro Tools. The Yamaha AW16G doesn't have an ethernet port nor a connection for an external disk so the question of transferring files doesn't arise. You could transfer via analog though, edit, transfer back and resynchronize. That wouldn't be too much trouble if there was something you needed to achieve. You could do a digital transfer with the appropriate interfacing.

My feeling is however (having spent many years transferring tracks to and from Pro Tools and analog multitrack in the old days) that you are better off working on one system. I would choose Pro Tools. I feel that the real value of hardware workstations is for people who really don't get on with computers.

By David Mellor Sunday August 7, 2005