\"\"
Piano Forum logo

What's the best recording equipment or software costwise (Read 1266 times)

Offline shostglass

  • Jr. Member
  • **
  • Posts: 58
What's the best recording equipment or software costwise
« on: December 14, 2015, 01:45:29 AM »
What is the best recording equipment (sound and video) I can buy without having to spend a fortune.

Offline indianajo

  • PS Silver Member
  • Sr. Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 1105
Re: What's the best recording equipment or software costwise
«Reply #1 on: December 14, 2015, 01:07:01 PM »
In the home or studio, your PC can do a decent job using the built in sound unit.  Both my Dell Pentium 4 mainboard and the import one sound Okay.  Used PC's go for about $70 around here.  The missing microsoft op system repair disk can be replaced by ubuntu studio op system which is free.  
you need a mike producing 100 mv to drive those.  Ribbon mikes like the old RCA, or import copy CAD can do this, with mediocre results.  Ubiquitous SM58 mikes are dynamic but lack highs and lows for accurate piano sound.
Howver for best piano sound condensor mikes are state of the art.  I use a Shure SM27 picked up used, they can be had any day for $180, but have a 10 db "presence' peak. I'm lusting after a totally flat response Shure SM32 but they are about $380 used unless you live in Nashville or LA.  These are cardioid patter condensor mikes that record from out in the room.  I use camera stands from the charity resale shop to hold the mikes, and rubber blocks I drill for shock mounts between mike & stand.    Some people on here use omni pattern Audiotech 4050 mikes taped to the soundboard of the piano.  That is a studio trick for multichannel recording to avoid picking up other instruments in the room.  
Condensor mikes require a mixer with phantom power, and some xlr female  to  xlr male cables for the mikes.  The cheapest mixer is from Behringer or numark; the one you can repair yourself when the pot or power supply goes bad comes from peavey. Used peavey mixers are okay since they sell parts to amateurs, used Behringer & Numark with issues are pricey because the service has to come from an authorized repair center.  Be sure to buy a stereo mixer, mono ones are very cheap and obsolete.  A four channel mixer will allow mixing in a vocal mike when you advancel a SM58 is fine for vocals.  
From the mixer to the PC, you need a dual 1/4 phone plug cable, to a stereo 1/8" phone plug.  I made mine from a dead earbud and two pamona plugs.  
For mediocre results on piano, some people use a zoom or uher pocket recorder with built in mikes.  This seems to work on pipe organ which are below 7000 hz,  but I don't recommend these for piano recording.  
For the video, the ubuntu studio will handle it but i haven't figured out what camera to buy or how to digitize it.  Cellphone recordings are **** on piano; the youtube website is polluted with millions of them.  

Offline dcstudio

  • PS Silver Member
  • Sr. Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 2423
Re: What's the best recording equipment or software costwise
«Reply #2 on: December 15, 2015, 02:53:01 AM »

geez indianjo--you are our resident pro audio expert for sure!   I used to use protools and Cubase for audio recording... and just plain old movie maker for vid editing..   these days though you don't need that much memory munching software to do that .. plus both of those were just glitchie as HELL.  lol.   Digital recording when you are used to analog is pretty brutal anyway.

Offline richard black

  • PS Silver Member
  • Sr. Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 2104
Re: What's the best recording equipment or software costwise
«Reply #3 on: December 24, 2015, 05:46:45 PM »
Zoom can actually do a very good job for what they cost. For better results, get one of the similar, but dearer, devices from Marantz or Olympus that can accept an input from external microphones, and get a pair of cheapish condensor mics. You get what you pay for.

Software: if you can find an old copy of Syntrillium Cool Edit (Pro or not), grab that. It does an excellent job and never cost much. It's actually a lot more flexible than many more recent editing suites but maybe takes a little more getting to know.
Instrumentalists are all wannabe singers. Discuss.

Offline shostglass

  • Jr. Member
  • **
  • Posts: 58
Re: What's the best recording equipment or software costwise
«Reply #4 on: December 27, 2015, 12:02:17 PM »
Thank you Indianajo you helped me a lot with your vast insight of recording software.

-Shost

Offline quantum

  • PS Silver Member
  • Sr. Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 5806
Re: What's the best recording equipment or software costwise
«Reply #5 on: December 28, 2015, 09:00:22 PM »
An all-in-one will present less of a learning curve, but also provide less flexibility in choosing quality components.

http://www.amazon.com/Zoom-Q4-Handy-Video-Recorder/dp/B00GWDCA8E/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1451331692&sr=8-1&keywords=zoom+video+recorder
http://www.amazon.com/TASCAM-DR-V1HD-Video-Linear-Recorder/dp/B008PAI770/ref=sr_1_8?ie=UTF8&qid=1451331692&sr=8-8&keywords=zoom+video+recorder


If you separate the video and audio, you will be able to independently position each in their optimum place.  Having the mic on camera is often not the best thing, as it can pick up operational and handling noise.  Look at some of the budget condenser mics that can be had in the $100 range (you will need two to do stereo).  Mic positioning and stereo technique will be a large component in the outcome of your recording, so don't focus on gear alone.  

With the condenser mics, you will need a preamp with phantom power.  You can get audio interfaces that hook up to your computer with built in mic preamps.  Naturally, you will need one with at least two channels to hook up with your two mics.  Some budget level ones start at $100.  Keep in mind that some of these interfaces also run in the same price range as some portable recorders with built in XLR inputs and preamps.  So there are decisions to make.  

Recording piano with SM58s is very tempting due to their availability.  However, piano is not their application strength.  Please consider other options.  

You could get one of those portable recorders with built in mic preamps and have more options for mic placement with the addition of external mics.  Generally speaking though, you will get better sound from stand-alone mics as opposed to those integrated into a recorder.  

For video, a compact camera with 1080p 24fps would do fine.  No need to limit yourself to purpose built "video cameras" as still digital cameras do video quite well.  DSLRs are also great for video, and some have inputs for external mics.  Be careful when reading camera specs.  Some early 1080p cameras did 1080p at 20 fps (or similar low frame rate), just to advertise that they could.  You need a minimum of 24 fps, or you will get choppy video.  Nothing wrong with 720p, just realize it is a lower resolution.  Go search for a used camera gear, good deals to be had.  

An older model DSLR with kit lens that does 1080p/24fps or 720p/30fps for around $200-300 is great.  Larger sensor then compact cameras, choice in lenses, scalable system with large range of accessories.  

Modern cell phone video isn't bad.  However, people wielding these devices often use poor video technique and thus make the video much worse then it could be.  If you are using a cell phone as a video camera, treat it like you would a real video camera.  Do not shoot in portrait orientation, just don't.  Video needs to be shot landscape.  Use a stabilizer or a tripod.

Tripod: get a tripod, you need one regardless of what camera you use.  Don't even think about doing video without a tripod.  A table and a phone book is not a tripod.  Get a tripod.  The key check on your piano is not a tripod.  Get a tripod.  Your friend's hand is not a tripod, unless they have a stabilization rig.  Get a tripod.  


Software:
Agree with the Cool Edit recommendation above.  Adobe Audition v1 came from Cool Edit and behaved much like its predecessor.  Later versions of Audition were progressively Adobefyed.  

http://audacityteam.org
Audacity.  For wav editing, start here first.  For many people it does everything they need.  Can't beat the price either.

http://ardour.org
Ardour is an open source DAW.  If you want something similar to Cubase, Sonar, Pro Tools, etc. without the price look here.  Linux and Mac only.  

http://www.reaper.fm
Reaper is an affordable commercial DAW.  For a small price you get a DAW with the essential features you need.

As for NLEs I am still searching for a good free or affordable solution.  


Made a Liszt. Need new Handel's for Soler panel & Alkan foil. Will Faure Stein on the way to pick up Mendels' sohn. Josquin get Wolfgangs Schu with Clara. Gone Chopin, I'll be Bach

Offline indianajo

  • PS Silver Member
  • Sr. Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 1105
Re: What's the best recording equipment or software costwise
«Reply #6 on: December 31, 2015, 04:26:27 PM »
Audacity and Ardour are part of the Ubuntu Studio Linux download.  That is free. Audacity records from the line input natively, and can do sound on sound tracks if you can play with headphones on with playback.  Audour has sound processing built in it, like reverb, flangers, frequency filtering. 
DAW's are apparently for people who make all those beep and bloop tracks that pollute the pop airwaves these days. We're discussion compression and sound trimming ON CD's and LP's  on diyaudio.com analog source today.  The market is moving back to LP's from CD's, IMHO because on LP's they didn't do any of that.  They got the performer to limit loud and soft to fit the format.  I do that myself when I record.  ***** limiters and compressors. CD's mostly are compressed to sound good in the car, LP's never would play in a car.   
 I'm a one take performer, play the song, trim the footsteps before and after off, convert to MP3, upload. If it's bad, discard and rerecord.   If I get a 3rd mike, the voice will be mixed in the mixer over the two piano mikes out in the room.   Multitracking is for bands, this is a piano site.  Yeah, a drumset needs 7 mikes and 7 tracks.  Piano doesn't use drums.  Audacity records in two tracks, ardour will add some reverb or whatever.  My voice might need a little processing like reverb, My voice sounds in my ears like Tommy Lee Jones the FBI agent in Fugitive, ie annoying timbre.  There is an effects loop in the $80 Peavey unity mixer; I could do some vocal processing live and put it into the mix before recording the track.  
Effects digital boxes run about $50 with bad power supply, or another PC to run Ardour effects realtime while recording is available today for $40 on craigslist.  The windows 7 or XP they always sell Pentium 4's with is somebody else's and will be destroyed by microsoft with "updates"; so  download ubuntu studio to replace it permanently before buying cakewalk which requires windows or MAC OS.  
No cakewalk, no reaper, no I/F on the PC is necessary.  There is a line level 1/8 stereo phone plug on all PC's use that.  Make a cable to that from the 1/4 phone plugs that go into the main outs of the mixer.  You can't buy that cable premade.    What $100 accessory for the PC?  soundcards are for multitrack, which this thread IMHO is not about.  
The video, I'm getting ready to jump off that cliff.  haupage sells a $70 "TV tuner" which is compatible with "set top cable boxes" which means I hope it has a line level video input or S video input plus left & right. Maybe even composite video in.   The one camera I've got is Black & White security camera with composite video out, enough probably to prove I played my audio tracks myself on a real piano, but not good enough to be found interesing by anybody.  If the Haupage tuner also has a HDMI socket or DVI socket I hope to find an inexpensive camera that will drive it, too. $300 for a used SLR camera is too much, on my budget.  I don't have an advanced cellphone, either.  

Offline quantum

  • PS Silver Member
  • Sr. Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 5806
Re: What's the best recording equipment or software costwise
«Reply #7 on: January 01, 2016, 01:15:21 AM »
IMO, DAWs are relevant to piano, regardless of the genre you play in.  I've done multi-mic organ and choir recordings and a DAW certainly was useful in post production.  Likewise, a concerto scenario with piano and orchestra may require more than a two-mic setup.  In a live performance, you don't have the luxury of going back and fixing.  Setting up more tracks gives you a greater chance of putting together a successful recording.  DAW's are certainly marketed to the pop crowd, but you don't have to use them in a similar manner.  It's simply a tool, the result is dependent on the skill of the operator. 

For reverb, especially for piano, I would recommend convolution reverb.  You can download a plugin for your application, or it may already be included.  All you need is the Impulse Response files to insert into the convolution reverb.  If applied well the results can be highly realistic.  In essence, someone records an impulse response (IR) in an acoustic space.  That IR is the acoustic fingerprint of the space, and can be applied to whatever you fancy.  The intending result being that you can sound as if you recorded in that particular space.  There are even sites that freely distribute IR files, so you could do this with very little cost.  Here is one:
http://www.openairlib.net

Unless one is under extreme budget, I would advise against using a computers internal ports for sound capture.  In most cases, these were never designed for music-specific applications.  They can be noisy and have poor dynamic range.  Even the budget audio interfaces will be a noticeable improvement.  You will also be separating the sound device from the often noisy electronics inside a computer - always a good thing.  That audio interface can also serve to drive your headphones or monitoring equipment, so it is certainly an item to seriously consider.  Another reason, is that an interface can allow you to use balanced inputs.  You can do much longer cable runs of a balanced signal, as opposed to an unbalanced signal that is prone to picking up noise.  An example: you were recording a live recital and wanted to hide the computer backstage to guard against cluttering the stage with gear.
Made a Liszt. Need new Handel's for Soler panel & Alkan foil. Will Faure Stein on the way to pick up Mendels' sohn. Josquin get Wolfgangs Schu with Clara. Gone Chopin, I'll be Bach

Offline hardy_practice

  • PS Silver Member
  • Sr. Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 1587
Re: What's the best recording equipment or software costwise
«Reply #8 on: January 04, 2016, 09:37:10 PM »
@indianajo - if you had $2000 what mic(s) would you buy?  Thanks.
B Mus, PGCE, DipABRSM

Offline indianajo

  • PS Silver Member
  • Sr. Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 1105
Re: What's the best recording equipment or software costwise
«Reply #9 on: January 05, 2016, 12:16:28 AM »
If I had $4000, and had any possibility of doing orchestra recordings in the future, I'd buy a couple of Neumann TLM107 condenor mikes.  These are multi pattern, including omni for orchestras in halls with beautiful acoustics and a quiet audience.  For my piano in my 3m x 3 m hard wall music room I'm going to buy one more cardiode pattern condensor mike. I already have an obsolete KSM27 I picked up for <100, which  made a huge improvement in my recording. I'm going to try putting a cushioned sock over it to kill the 5 db "vocal presence" frequency response rise.  
 My budget is $400 and the used market has in the last month taken a $100 rise, so I'm not going to telegraph yet what I'm shopping for.  The bidding war has heated up enough with the onset of winter.  I will say, that companies that have a great reputation for not lying about their frequency response, and having an aggressive Qualtiy Assurance program, are the ones I'm considering.  There are a couple of local television programs that show the mikes on screen, and that encouraged me to go out and buy the KSM27.  
A cautionary tale.  Radio Shack Micronata speakers usually  had published specifications of "20-20000 hz +- 3db" yet they always sounded like **** in the store. I bought a RS headphone one time for electronic testing, and in the back pages of the booklet the secret was published:  "Production tolerance +-20 db" . That headphone could have passed that spec with any sound at all.  Bumpy frequency response leads inevitably to harmonic and intermodulation distortion, do the math.  
So the published specs of a mike, remember that loophole.  Certain brands get used by pro recordings.  Neumann is one quoted on the back of record albums.  They are produced in Germany which has a stellar QA tradition as exemplified by Airbus products.  Remember which country produces Boeing products, and you'll see what I'm thinking.  A US "brand name" doesn't mean anything.  Where the products are tested by who, and audited by who, even on Saturday night third shift, matters a lot.  Read www.recordinghack.com for data about different microphones, including data on where they were produced the day the review was written. 
A response to quantum: he is recording on a level far above my fantasies. I'll never play a concerto with an orchestra, not even a high school one. The biggest group I'll ever record is a church holiday cantata, and at that level of singing with a noisy audience, VHS video recorders were fine for the ones I've done.     With my second $500 I might purchase a recording interface for the PC, along with some DAW or something. $500 of that will be a second quality condensor mike.    The first $300 went into a PC, a mixer, one condensor microphone,  some cables, a buzzing stereo graphic equalizer and a buzzing stereo reverb/effects chassis. January is electronics repair season, maybe this year I'll renew some PS caps in the stuff in the attic. 
 Pity the reel to reel deck no longer produces a format useable by anybody, that sounded really good from LP sources without a mixer, but not nearly as good from my $10 dynamic microphones.  
Oh, for voice If I sing with the piano or organ, I'll get an SM58 just like everybody else.  Flat frequency response is not the goal on voice, eliminating the hand rumble, P pops, Sss sibulance, and spit damage are. 

Offline richard black

  • PS Silver Member
  • Sr. Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 2104
Re: What's the best recording equipment or software costwise
«Reply #10 on: January 05, 2016, 09:41:19 PM »
Code: [Select]
Bumpy frequency response leads inevitably to harmonic and intermodulation distortion, do the math.
I can't let that one go without comment - non-flat frequency response and nonlinear distortion (harmonic and intermod) are caused by mathematically quite distinct effects. You can certainly have a non-flat frequency response with no nonlinear distortion (this is exactly what an equaliser sets out to achieve): actually you can't have nonlinear distortion without some frequency response deviation but it won't generally be much unless the distortion is absolutely massive in level, at which point a non-flat response won't be your first problem anyway.
Instrumentalists are all wannabe singers. Discuss.

Offline shostglass

  • Jr. Member
  • **
  • Posts: 58
Re: What's the best recording equipment or software costwise
«Reply #11 on: January 09, 2016, 09:41:33 PM »
Damn I didn't expect so many quality answers thank everyone.
 :o
-Shost