How to Set Up Digital Audio
in your Home Studio
Ways to get audio into your computer for
your creative projects
Shorthand for "In the Box" is ITB. This means the piece was recorded and mixed inside the computer. OTB, or out of the box, means the song was mixed outside the computer, most likely on a hardware mixer or console.
6 Ways to get your sounds into "the Box"
(erm..that means into the computer, dude, from your microphones, electric guitars and other electronic instruments)
1. Use your onboard Sound device
3. Audio Interface Only-- The "Mixerless" Approach
4. Mixer with integrated audio interface
The NRV10 is a full function 8x2 analog mixer, with a built-in 10x10 audio interface, does not need a soundcard. At the high end of this class of mixer/interface, is the Allen & Heath ZEDR 16 which connects by Firewire. There are also many inexpensive analog mixers with simple USB 1.1 interfaces tacked on, like with the Behringer XENYX 2442FX, which is OK to get you started. One of the newer Mixers with integrated audio interface is the Mackie 1640i. The 1640i has a 16x16 audio interface matched to a 16 channel 4 bus mixer.
5. Audio Interface with Integrated Control Surface
6. Multi-Track Recorder
What is Digital Audio
This is a graphical representation of audio data. The computer sees it as a stream of numbers. Because it is data, we can apply operations that alter and enhance it. While it appears that these signals go through chains of effects what is really happening is a mathematical process.
How MIDI becomes Audio
Getting your Sounds Out of the Box
The Recording process, Step by Step
Introduction to the Tracking and Mixing process with the Mixer/Soundcard Approach
Audio Path with a Mic or Guitar
- The guitar (or Mic) signal goes into the mixer through a preamp.
- The signal travels through the mixer and goes out your recording output (called an alt-3-4 bus, direct out, or group out).
- The signal goes into the soundcard and is converted to digital audio data.
- The waveform appears on the screen in your sequencer.
- You can cut and paste, chop up, move around, even reverse this waveform. You now have one audio track.
- The sound of this track goes back to the mixer and to the speakers. You hear it and like it or don't like it. If the latter, you go back to #1.
MIDI Path using a keyboard that has sounds
- You want a bassline, so you call up a bass program on your keyboard
- You press record on a MIDI track, play the part along with the guitar track.
- The MIDI data (which notes you pressed and when) is recorded in the sequencer as a MIDI track.
- When you play back the track, this data goes back to the keyboard and triggers the notes.
- The sound of the keyboard goes to the mixer, is mixed with the sound of the guitar track and you hear it on your speakers.
- At this point you can record it as audio, or leave it as MIDI till later. By leaving it as Midi data, you can always change the notes you played, time-correct them, add notes, remove notes or change the instrument from bass to bassoon if you want.
MIDI path using a software synth or drum sample synth
- You call up another Midi track in the sequencer and assign (for this example) a software drum sampler, like Battery.
- The computer creates a virtual instrument and you assign it to an output in the sequencer.
- You play notes on your keyboard. You hear the drums and make a wack beat The MIDI data creates a track in the sequencer. The data plays the drum sounds on playback.
- You think it is so crappy you quantize all the timing to 8th notes and switch to 'yo coolest samples. You can now live with it.
- You can "bounce" these virtual tracks to audio tracks inside the sequencer.
- Enlist the significant other for your first production. He/she will will listen to the tracks playing back and then sing out "Oh BayeyayeeBeehe Baybay!" on cue.
- They listen to the tracks on headphones.
- The signal passes through the Mic, through the mic preamp on the mixer, and into the soundcard where it is digitized into data. The audio data shows up on the screen.
- It sounds so godawful you decide to drench it in reverb, reverse it, split up each sylable into a sample and load it into a software sampler when you can play it slowed down in backwards syllables. "yyeeebb,, eeyyyahh, yeeb, yeeb, hhhhoooh"
- Someone suggests you are a genius.
The Two Basic Mixing Methods
Tweak: Add a large audio interface with the Behringer SX4882 and you can do a 24 channel recording/mix on a real analog mixer. Heh, 15 years ago it would have cost about $30,000 to have a 24 track digital recorder and a 24 ch desk with Mix B. Today you can do the whole shot at a little over $3,000 using your computer as the recorder.
|This is part of Sonar's virtual mixer. Once the signal is digitized, all the mixing processes are numerical. There are no cables, hisses, hums or voltages in the digital domain and processes can be applied with incredible precision. Hence, digital processing is "clean". The cool thing about the virtual "software" mixer? You want more channels, you click your mouse and add as many as you want. You want 2 compresors on every vocal track and 3 cascaded delays on your guitar tracks? No problem. In the virtual console you can dream big!|
Links to a Dream
---Your First Test---