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Computer based audio recording and editing systems are often referred to as digital audio work stations or DAS. DAS are made up of the following components. A computer running a music production program like Ableton Live. An external hard drive to store your library and audio files. A microphone, which can capture the sound from a singer or instrument, and convert it into an electrical signal. An audio interface, which converts the audio from an electrical signal to a digital signal. And then so we can listen to the audio signal coming out of the computer, converts it from a digital signal back to an electrical signal.
A MIDI keyboard controller, which will allow you to send MIDI signals that represents the notes and chords that you play to Ableton Live. And headphones or speakers which convert the electrical signal back to sound pressure waves, so that you can hear and evaluate your music. If you don't currently own some of these components and are considering purchasing one or more of them to complement your home setup, here are some things you should consider. Most of the processing required by a music production program like Ableton Live is handled by the computer, so the experience will be more enjoyable if you use a fast computer with at least 8 GB of RAM.
Also, your system will run more efficiently if you store your live projects and sets on a different hard drive than the drive that contains your operating system and programs. This additional drive could be an internal drive but you'll probably find it more convenient to use an external drive and I'd suggest using a drive that has at least a 7200 rpm spin rate. Ableton Live will run without an external audio interface instead using the computers built in converters. However, these converters are not nearly as good as those found on an audio interface and as a result your recordings will not be as good. The available interfaces have many options.
For example, some interfaces connect to the computer using a USB cable. Until recently, these devices connected via USB 1.0, which has a transfer rate of around 10 megabits per second. This is slow for audio, so most of these devices only allow for two simultaneous inputs and a maximum of a 48 kilohertz sampling rate. Both a USB 2 and Firewire interfaces are a better option in my opinion, and both offer sampling rates of up to 96 kilohertz, two to eight simultaneous inputs, and an overall more robust performance.
Also, look for an interface that offers instrument and line inputs in addition to microphone inputs. And you'll probably appreciate options like multiple headphone outputs, built-in MIDI interface, guitar tuner and effects. If you're looking to purchase a new MIDI controller, there are several controllers that are designed to work specifically with Ableton Live. A list is available on the Ableton website. These native controllers offer remote control to launch scenes and clips, instruments and effects as well as mixer controls. Most of the devices have knobs that map to Live Macros using instant mapping which will greatly enhance our automation and live performances.
And you'll also want to take a look at Abletons' new controller Push. Which is an innovative new controller designed specifically to work with Live. Purchasing a microphone can be a confusing experience. So it's best to focus on purchasing one for a specific need. For example, a small diaphragm condenser microphone is often the mike of choice for recording acoustic guitars or drum overheads. Dynamic microphones are typically used to record guitar amps. And large diaphragm condenser microphones are best for recording vocals. Before you purchase a microphone do some research, and if possible borrow or rent before buying. And if you're recording vocals, I'd suggest purchasing a pop filter. They help to knock down those nasty plosive consonants, and help protect the microphone.
Selecting speakers and headphones is very similar to selecting microphones. There are so many to choose from. In either case, you'll want to use reference headphones or speakers. They accurately reproduce sound without the coloration that you typically get from consumer devices. And again, research is important. And auditioning speakers with recordings you know well is critical. In the end, you want to be able to record and mix your projects knowing that what you're hearing will translate to other playback systems. Now that you understand the important issues in choosing equipment for a home recording studio, you can begin assembling the necessary devices.
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