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IronFilm

Low cost USB interfaces to use with Audacity/Audition?

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I too have a Zoom F4, purchased so I could capture 4 channels needed for the Sennheiser Ambeo VR (Ambisonic) microphone. Kudos to Zoom for getting the noise floor down (vs. the H4n, lol, which was really bad).  Using Schoeps mics for voice recording (CMC641 and CMIT5U), the extra quality provided by the Sound Devices preamps and complete audio path is worth it. From my own projects, the Sound Devices hardware is much fuller, more detailed, smoother, and has an analog feel to it. The Zoom F4 is comparatively thinner, less detailed, and has digital harshness and is less smooth vs. the Sound Devices. The digital limiter is 'nasty' compared to the analog limiter on the Sound Devices.

Listening on Focal Listen headphones through the FocusRite 2i2, the Analog Devices 688 vs. the Zoom F8 illustrates the same quality differences I hear between the USBPre2 (which has the same preamps and audio topology as the 688) and the Zoom F4 (which has the same preamps and audio topology as the Zoom F8):

From this video:

As soon as the Sound Devices Mixpre-6 is released, I'll be selling my Zoom F4 (mint condition! :)) and replacing with the Mixpre-6.

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8 hours ago, buggz said:

Oh, I just recently got a Zoom F4, it supposedly does USB "soundcard" interface too, though, I have not used that feature.

Yes, I am a gearslut...

Yes the F4 does do that, as I own one myself and have used it for that purpose....   but I'd like to free up the F4, so thus why I'm looking around at one of these cheap USB interfaces. 

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Have been using the new Windows 10 box more frequently- the FocusRite Scarlett (1st gen) has issues there as well- doesn't come out of sleep reliably. Have to pull and reinstall USB cable to reset it. Maybe they fixed these issues for Gen 2. Given the sound quality of that Behringer demo against the FocusRite- definitely worth a look for those on a budget.

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Still sitting on the fence as to which cheap and affordable USB interface I should buy, I think I've narrowed it down to three that grab my interest the most:

BEHRINGER U-PHORIA UMC404HD (only US$100! And has MIDAS designed pre amps, and has 4 XLR inputs). 

Secondhand Focusrite Scarlett 18I8 (hopefully could get it for sub US$200 secondhand on eBay? Although might be only generation 1, does gen2 add that much more?! I do like that not only does it have 4 XLR inputs, but I can easily enough expand it up to **EIGHTEEN* inputs! :-o ).

Tascam US-4x4 (US$200, so probably the priciest one here. But has limiters, and two headphone outputs).

What do folks think?

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@JCS's comments very interesting as always.  I've been looking for something similar for a family podcast I'm doing.  Been using the Tascam 70D, which works well.  However, I would like what I use to double as a USB interface (the 70D does'nt).  In that vein, the Yamaha MG10XU 10-Input Stereo Mixer with Effects is pretty interesting.  Watched some YouTuber set it up.  So throwing that into the ring...sorry! :)  Those Sound Devices are very interesting (thanks JCS) and seems like a good investment.  Anyway, one aspect you might also consider are the size of the knobs and meters and ability to listen to isolated channels, etc.  It's those things I'm really starting to appreciate, especially after using the 70D.  Although I can live without analogue pre-amps, I'll just taser anyone who talks too loud ;)  Reading about all the professionals, like JCS, who can't live without the finer details that Sound Devices takes care of, makes me wonder if this is a place to go cheap, or make the investment.

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5 hours ago, maxotics said:

 It's those things I'm really starting to appreciate, especially after using the 70D.  Although I can live without analogue pre-amps, I'll just taser anyone who talks too loud ;) 

Just use Tascam's dual record feature! Easy breezy, handy for when actors catch you off guard.

 

5 hours ago, maxotics said:

Reading about all the professionals, like JCS, who can't live without the finer details that Sound Devices takes care of, makes me wonder if this is a place to go cheap, or make the investment.

Depends, are you earning an income from this? Then you can analyze the ROI ("return on investment"). 

Otherwise treat it the same way you'd look at any other hobby spending, such as buying a boat for your fishing. 

5 hours ago, maxotics said:

In that vein, the Yamaha MG10XU 10-Input Stereo Mixer with Effects is pretty interesting.  Watched some YouTuber set it up.  So throwing that into the ring...sorry! :) 

I looked it up, and saw this:

"24-bit /192kHz 2-in/2-out USB Audio"

Noooooooooooooooo!!! Avoid it, avoid, abandon ship!

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4 hours ago, IronFilm said:

Just use Tascam's dual record feature! Easy breezy, handy for when actors catch you off guard.

Depends, are you earning an income from this? Then you can analyze the ROI ("return on investment"). 

Otherwise treat it the same way you'd look at any other hobby spending, such as buying a boat for your fishing. 

I looked it up, and saw this:

"24-bit /192kHz 2-in/2-out USB Audio"

Noooooooooooooooo!!! Avoid it, avoid, abandon ship!

I don't fully understand the USB audio part of these devices.  Could you explain more about the reason behind your "abandon ship". --which cracked me up :) Indeed, expand on it.  What I want to be able to do is record 4 to 8 separate mic tracks on my laptop.  (btw, what attracted me to the Yamaha was the voice effects--yep, the 13-year-old in me was like "yeah, I'm going to add Darth Vader to the podcast!  I'm sure my family would rather I didn't!)

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"2 in" => means you can record at most only two tracks on your PC with this piece of hardware. 

On 7/8/2017 at 10:54 PM, maxotics said:

 (btw, what attracted me to the Yamaha was the voice effects--yep, the 13-year-old in me was like "yeah, I'm going to add Darth Vader to the podcast!  I'm sure my family would rather I didn't!)

You don't need hardware for that? Do it in post with software on your PC. 

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12 minutes ago, IronFilm said:

"2 in" => means you can record at most only two tracks on your PC with this piece of hardware. 

You don't need hardware for that? Do it in post with software on your PC. 

It would be more annoying to them in real-time ;)

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As much as I want to divert the thread in a discussion of annoying my family with FX ;) .... I recorded another podcast last night on the Tascam 70D.  No matter how many times I told them to regulate their voices, by how they sounded in their headphones, they still often talked too loud, or too softly.  A technically proficient friend of mine who was there then became annoyed with me that I didn't keep changing the levels.  My response was it was hopeless and the podcast is just a family thing anyway (doubt anyone would find it very entertaining).   As I mentioned above, my response to JCS's recommendation of the Sound Devices is to taser people, but that's clearly not possible.  So if I was going to do a professional podcast I can't see how I wouldn't want the analogue limiters of the Sound Devices, or other professional gear.  

So I'd like to hear from @jcs, or others, just how valuable, or not, those analogue limiters are in their work.

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39 minutes ago, maxotics said:

As much as I want to divert the thread in a discussion of annoying my family with FX ;) .... I recorded another podcast last night on the Tascam 70D.  No matter how many times I told them to regulate their voices, by how they sounded in their headphones, they still often talked too loud, or too softly.  A technically proficient friend of mine who was there then became annoyed with me that I didn't keep changing the levels.  My response was it was hopeless and the podcast is just a family thing anyway (doubt anyone would find it very entertaining).   As I mentioned above, my response to JCS's recommendation of the Sound Devices is to taser people, but that's clearly not possible.  So if I was going to do a professional podcast I can't see how I wouldn't want the analogue limiters of the Sound Devices, or other professional gear.  

So I'd like to hear from @jcs, or others, just how valuable, or not, those analogue limiters are in their work.

 

You don't need to change the levels manually while recording. If you are recording in 24bit then you have a lot of headroom. Just make sure the loudest level that you are recording isn't clipping the converters. Clipping can be heard as harsh digital distortion and seen as the red light on an audio meter.  

What you need is compression during or after recording. I'm not sure but I would guess your Tascam would have a built-in compressor, but you can probably get better results by using software compression in post.  What a compressor does is takes the quiet sections and raises them up, and the loud sections and squashes them down. However this can sound bad if the quiet parts are so low that the compressor drives up the noisefloor to distracting levels, so you need to make sure the voices are all recorded at a moderate distance from the mic.

If you want I can edit your podcast for free, send it to [email protected] Tell me what software you use to edit your podcast and I can advise on a free/ cheap solution for compression in post.

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6 hours ago, maxotics said:

As much as I want to divert the thread in a discussion of annoying my family with FX ;) .... I recorded another podcast last night on the Tascam 70D.  No matter how many times I told them to regulate their voices, by how they sounded in their headphones, they still often talked too loud, or too softly.  A technically proficient friend of mine who was there then became annoyed with me that I didn't keep changing the levels.  My response was it was hopeless and the podcast is just a family thing anyway (doubt anyone would find it very entertaining).   As I mentioned above, my response to JCS's recommendation of the Sound Devices is to taser people, but that's clearly not possible.  So if I was going to do a professional podcast I can't see how I wouldn't want the analogue limiters of the Sound Devices, or other professional gear.  

So I'd like to hear from @jcs, or others, just how valuable, or not, those analogue limiters are in their work.

If one is an audiophile, and one can afford the extra $500 or so, the sound quality alone provided by Sound Devices verses the others is totally worth it (listen to the examples in this post):

Digital limiters are just slightly above useless. If the sound level barely kisses the limit, a digital limiter might be able to not destroy the take. Sound Devices analog limiters will not clip, even under crazy high levels (there are some side effects if you do this, but the result will be very usable, as shown here:)

 

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On 7/10/2017 at 1:39 AM, maxotics said:

As much as I want to divert the thread in a discussion of annoying my family with FX ;) .... I recorded another podcast last night on the Tascam 70D.  No matter how many times I told them to regulate their voices, by how they sounded in their headphones, they still often talked too loud, or too softly.  A technically proficient friend of mine who was there then became annoyed with me that I didn't keep changing the levels.  My response was it was hopeless and the podcast is just a family thing anyway (doubt anyone would find it very entertaining).   As I mentioned above, my response to JCS's recommendation of the Sound Devices is to taser people, but that's clearly not possible.  So if I was going to do a professional podcast I can't see how I wouldn't want the analogue limiters of the Sound Devices, or other professional gear.  

So I'd like to hear from @jcs, or others, just how valuable, or not, those analogue limiters are in their work.

Just pick a happy middle ground, and use the limiters with a soft knee that the Tascam gives you. You might still find yourself needing to occasionally adjust levels, but not too much, pretty easy to do on the fly. 

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I watched the videos @jcs mentioned.  Although I could hear the difference between the Zoom (digital limiter) and Sound Devices (analogue) I doubt my audience would hear it for the stuff I do.  Just like imaging equipment, the physical sensor looses fidelity at the extreme ends of its dynamic range making any sort of improvement difficult; that is, the old, garbage in, garbage out ;)  Probably just as well to spend a few hours learning post processing techniques than depend on the the devices real-time limiter which has no look-ahead capabilities (AFAIK).  Also, for the purposes of a podcast, I'm leaning toward a USB interface where I can get 16 channels of separate audio into the computer for under $300.

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@maxotics I plug the Schoeps mics straight into the C300 II (has digital limiters). Full-time sound pros recommend at least going through an SD mixer to get the analog limiters and much better preamps. However I record in my own studio and have complete control over sound; if talent clips I adjust gain and reshoot. If I was shooting for a high-end paying client and sound was critical, using an SD mixer in the loop is a no brainer. At the even higher end, a sound person would be live monitoring and adjusting gain while recording separately. For voice work I use the SD USBPre2.

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9 hours ago, maxotics said:

 Also, for the purposes of a podcast, I'm leaning toward a USB interface where I can get 16 channels of separate audio into the computer for under $300.

Which one are you looking at getting, and why do you need 16 channels?

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I recently bought a “like new”  Tascam 1x2 for a great price to record ADR, narration and a few voice acting projects I’m working on. The 2x2 gets really good reviews so, for the price, I am hoping the 1x2 will meet my modest needs for the time being.

Consequently, I’m also looking for a field recorder for my run and gun filmmaking. Some of the project’s audio will overlap, so does it make sense to look at Tascam recorders?

Originally, I planned on getting a Zoom H5 or H6 and a couple Zoom F1s for body and plant mics. But now would it make sense to look at a DR40 or DR60 (although the portability factor of the DR40 makes more sense for my needs) and some DR10Ls for body and plant mics?

I assume a lot of folks use different brands for audio, but if the similar preamps will help unify the overall sound, I will stay with a single brand to simplify my work.

With that being said, if the Zoom H6 is way better than the DR40, I could always go the Zoom route and pick up a U-22 or U-24 USB Audio Interface... I’m not attached to the Tascam, I just liked the price. 

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