Tag Archives: audio interface

Cubase 5 – Getting started, configuration, settings, how to record songs

In this tutorial, I am going to share some of the things I’ve learned over the years that may get you started with your recording sessions in Cubase. I am going to focus mainly on the preparation process, general settings, inputs and VST settings in Cubase 5. The following pieces of advice may very well work on any upper versions of Cubase like Cubase PRO 8.5, but I have tested them only on Cubase 5, since that’s the version I own right now. Let’s get started:

0. The obvious

Before getting lost in the following configurations, make sure that your audio interface is connected to your computer and it is installed properly. You can verify this by listening to a Youtube song or playing any type of audio file from your local disk.

Cubase 5 Getting Started Tutorial

1. Getting started

When you start Cubase for the first time, you should choose New Project in the pop-up window or from the File > New Project option. A new pop-up should appear, asking you to choose the type of template you are going to use. Choose “Empty” and then press OK button. Next, you are asked to choose the working folder, the folder that will contain all the recordings you make for this particular project. I like to be organized, so I keep a separate folder for each song, so things won’t get to mixed up in the process. In the end, your screen should like just like in the image above.

Cubase 5 setting audio interface setting

2. Setting the Audio Interface in Cubase 5

In some cases, Cubase will auto-select your laptop/desktop’s audio interface instead of your audio interface. In order to make sure the proper interface is set on your project, go to Main menu > Devices > Device Setup > VST Audio System and select your audio interface. Once you’ve done that, press OK/Save.

3. VST Settings for microphone in Cubase

By default, Cubase 5 allows you to record using a stereo input. In other words, you will get the left and the right source on the same channel (if you are planning to record on a stereo channel). But there might be a problem, since most microphones are mono, so you will be getting signal only from left or right, the channel containing only the self noise that’s coming the recording chain. In this case, you should make some changes in the VST connection settings in order to capture only the channel that’s active.

Press F4 or select Main Menu > Devices > VST Connections. Choose the “Inputs” tab, and select 2xMono from the Presets drop down. If there is no such options there, you have to do it manually: delete everything in the BusName table and Press Add Bus twice in order to add two Mono Inputs. Make sure each Bus Name has both Left and Right as device port settings. Now, you should have two mono inputs set, one for the left and one for the right channel. Close this window and return to the main window.

Adding new channel in cubase

4. Adding a new channel in Cubase

In order to add a new audio channel to your project, select Main Menu > Project > Add Track > Audio. A new pop-up should appear, allowing you to choose the type of audio channel you are going to create. Create a new Stereo channel by pressing OK. Alternatively, you can do this by right cliking in the bluish vertical area, just like in the image above.

setting microphone input

5. Setting the microphone as mono input in Cubase

Open the mixer window by pressing F3 or by clicking on the small mixer button under the main menu. There, you should see the mix-volume for your newly created audio channel and the mono1 (Audio 01 in the image above), Mono1 and Mono 2 input channels (Mono In and Mono In 2 in the image above). In the upper area of Audio 01, just above “Stereo Out” lies the input settings for the Audio channel you have created. See which mono inputs has an active signal and select it as the the source for your audio channel. In my example above, I have set MonoIn as the recording source. Close the mixer window, make sure the recording is enabled on this channel and press record. If everything works smoothly, you should be able to record your voice on the audio channel you’ve just created. If there is no sound on the recording, you should probably choose the other Mono input.

Troubleshooting and hints:

  • By pressing the small speaker on the audio channel’s controls, you should be able to hear live what the channel captures.
  • If the process fails and there is no input signal from the condenser microphone, make sure the 48V Phantom Power is activated on your audio interface.
  • I like to record mono inputs on Stereo channels since there are times when you want to add a stereo effect to a particular channel, and if that channel is mono then you won’t be getting the effect you want.

How to build a rap / hip hop home recording studio

These days it’s easier than ever to become a music star. Of course, there is a lot of “politics” in the background, but it’s never been easier to propel yourself from someone who is making music in the bedroom to a world wide phenomenon. The music industry knows it, the TV stations know it and ultimately, the music fans know it: the future of music is on the Internet. But don’t get the story twisted, in order to become famous on Youtube, you need talent and a way to record your music. I get many questions on music equipment and many of them are asking me to suggest equipment for building a hip hop home recording studio. As you know, I like to please my readers, so I decided to put together a low-budget setup that will get you started. This setup is great for other music genres, but especially for rap music.

Hip Hop home recording studio

How to buid a rap / hip hop home recording studio?

I will recommend a minimum setup of $300 that will get you started in your journey to build a hip hop home recording studio. This setup does not include the computer/laptop, since I guess you already have one. Also, you should know that this recording setup does not include the acoustic treatment of the room. If you want to go the extra mile, you should check this article on best acoustic foam products. So, let’s get started…

The microphone – $125
This is the first item in the hip hop home recording studio chain and you should not go cheap with it. For this type of low-budget recording setup, I usually recommend AT2020 as the best choice. But since its upgraded version, the AT2035 got so cheap recently (only $125 on Amazon.com), you should definitely consider the latter as the best choice for your home studio.

The audio interface – $109
The best possible choice for a low-cost audio interface is the Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 ($109.00 on Amazon). I have reviewed this interface in a previous post and let my give you the short version of that review: it’s an awesome interface at a cheap price. Focusrite is known for its award-winning preamps that offers transparency and crystal clear analog to digital conversion.

The monitors, cables, mic accessories
Unfortunately, the $300 budget is too low to consider a pair of actual studio monitors, so you’ll have to work with the ATH-M30 Professional studio monitor headphones from Audio Tehnica ($39). They can also be used when you record your vocals, but also when you mix the songs. Also, don’t forget the mic stand ($15), the 20 foot XLR Microphone Cable ($5) and the pop filter ($7).

Other stuff that you can get for free
You can make your own recording area from large egg crates that are usually free. They work great as audio insulators. For recording, you can use the Ableton Live Lite 8 software + Focusrite plugins that are included for free in the interface’s box. Don’t get too mad because you don’t have the proper monitoring speakers. You can mix the songs on the headphones, export the song to mp3 and listen to it everywhere you can (in the car, on your sound system, give it to your friends and ask for opinion). You will notice what’s missing and what needs to be adjusted in order to make it perfect.

Promotion
Right now, Youtube is the main website to promote upcoming artists, but there are other alternatives like SoundCloud that are worth taking into consideration. Once you have a dope song, share it on Facebook, create a fan page, ask your friends to share it to their friends. If the song is good enough, you are one step away from celebrity. As Dr. Dre said in a commercial, “Good things come to those who work”. Don’t be disappointment if your first attempt doesn’t become a hit on the Internet. Get back in your studio and work harder, work later and put your soul into your music. That’s the ultimate recipe for success.

What’s your favorite rap studio setup?

Yamaha Audiogram 6 USB Audio Interface Review

Yamaha has been building audio products for some time, and their Yamaha Studio Monitors are actually praised by a lot of musicians. This audio interface powered by USB has been designed with care (at least according to the manufacturer) and it actually packs surprising features. It should make your job on building a home recording studio easier, since it’s easy to install and easy to use. Although it looks like a mixer, it has the same common functions of a normal external audio interface found at the same price. But we’ll get into that later. For now, let’s talk about …

The body
Most users love the fact that this audio interface looks like a mixer. I’m not necessarily a big fan of this design, but I will admit that the body is light weighted, sleek and solid. I got my hands on a white model, and as far as I know, this is the only available color.

audiogram 6 usb

The controls, inputs, outputs
Once you take a quick look at the control area, you will learn that the device has knobs that control the preamps, the compression and the input level. You will also find a DAW control know and a master level. Just like most audio interfaces today, this Yamaha device has 2 microphone / Hi-Z inputs and additional 2 more stereo line-in inputs. The control panel has 4 buttons: two for switching between a microphone and an instrument, a mono/stereo switch and a Phantom Power switch for condenser mics. Every input has a red peak LED that will notify you when the audio levels are getting too high. There is also a stereo output and a headphone output.

The back panel
There is no actual back panel for this audio interface. You will find there just the USB cable slot that connects the device to the computer.

yamaha audiogram 6

Features and functionality
This is probably one of the audio interfaces that I would recommend for entry-levels musicians and folks involved in audio podcasting. One of the features that got my attention was the hardware compression. The other audio interfaces in this price range lack this feature, and it is one of the reasons you could think of getting this interface. Even so, having a single knob for compression seems too simplistic to be real, since audio compression is more than switching something to on/off. The preamps are ok, but I didn’t notice something spectacular in that regard. I noticed some pops and clicks when recording the vocals on multiple channels and I guess that working with USB 1.1 technology (12 Mbit/s) is one of the reasons for this issue. Yamaha should upgrade this interface to USB 2.0 (480 Mbit/s) technology. But again, if you’re using it for simple projects or for podcasts, this interface is great! I was curios about its compatibility with electric guitars, synthesizers and drums, so I scouted for some user reviews. No complaints there, as long as the projects were not getting too complex. There is no MIDI I/O on board and the maximum sample rate is 48 kHz @ 16-bit.

The Price
The Yamaha Audiogram 6 can be found on most shopping websites at prices between $130 and $200. For instance, you should look for it on Amazon.com for $129.

Conclusion
This entry range audio interface is not for the audiophiles. It’s based on an obsolete technology (USB 1.1), it has a feature that seems to be there just for marketing purposes (the compression) and it lacks the MIDI I/O. The package also includes the Cubase AI recording software which is not enough for make me place this device in a positive light. At this price, you can consider a better interface, like Focusrite Safirre 2i2.

Native Instruments Komplete Audio 6 Interface Review

If you’re looking for a great audio interface to use it as the core of your home studio then you are lucky because there are plenty of options to choose from. I still remember the first time I decided to go external with the soundcard: I got confused by all the options available, all the features, the prices and all the reviews. Finally, I decided to get the Audio Kontrol 1, the previous version of Native Instruments Komplete Audio 6. The two interfaces resembles a lot so you can say that I have some experience with both of them.

The body

Let me start with this: this audio interface does not feel cheap in anyway. Once you get to hold it in your hands you will immediately notice that it’s solid and weight balanced. It’s aluminum and black glass finish, it’s knobs and the main volume control looks great and professional. The device is not that big, it measures 11 x 4 x 7 inches and weights around 3 pounds.

Audio Kontrol 1 Audio Review

The front controls and inputs

If you’ve tested few soundcards and audio interfaces in my lifetime you know that you can tell a lot about the quality of the product if you test at the front controls, especially the knobs. For me, the knobs on Native Instruments Komplete Audio 6 are perfectly balanced, absolutely no wiggle here. Maybe I’m subjective, but I really loved this feature on any audio interface. The front face features two XLR combos, gain knobs for the inputs, volume level and switch for the headphone level. Using the button under the headphone level, you are able to switch between audio source 1 or audio source 2. There is no control light on the front face. All lights and main audio level wheel are placed on top, as seen in the above image.

Back Panel

The back panel

On the back panel you will find the Phantom Power button, the MIDI In/Out, the SPDIF connects, the output for monitors and the secondary balanced line input. The audio interface is powered through a USB cable that’s connected to the computer.

Functionality

As inputs, you can use the XLR microphone cable or a 1/4″ instrument cable. If you do use a mic cable, it will automatically detect microphone level signal. The gain control is very smooth and the quality is above average. Compared to Audio Kontrol 1, this audio interface has no programmable buttons, and the upper face of the interface was replaced by a big volume and control lights. For me, it seems like a waste of space. On the good side, this audio interface has a lot of pros like direct monitoring for live and for latency-free recording, the high-quality preamps and the solid construction. Also, the interface is really easy to setup and to work with. There were few complaints from users regarding crashes. I’ve also experienced this in my old Audio Kontrol 1. From time to time, the Cubase refused to play any sound and I needed to disconnect and reconnect the audio interface in order to fix things. This process was not long since the interface starts almost instantly (if you’re using the same USB slot).

The Price

You will find the Native Instruments Komplete Audio 6 in most online stores at prices between $220 and $250.

Conclusion

If you’re looking for an audio interface with solid construction, with plenty of inputs/outputs and with great preamps then you should definitely take your time to test the Komplete Audio 6 interface. If the hardware features are not enough for you, maybe the software package will convince you: Cubase LE5 and few cool plugins. Everything you need is right there in the box.

Do you already own it? What’s your own review on Komplete Audio 6 Interface?

Steinberg UR22 vs Focusrite Scarlett 2i2. A short comparison.

A recent comment from DavidT inspired me to write an article about the similarities and differences between Steinberg UR22 vs Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 audio interfaces. If you find yourself in the position of having to choose one of these two devices and you need the ultimate reason to choose one of them, then the following comparison might be of help. I will try to point the main differences between these two audio interfaces but in the end, you have to make your own decision according to your own needs.

Background
I had the pleasure of working with both devices for different periods of time. I’ve tested the Steinberg UR22 for few hours at a friend’s house and I worked on Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 for a longer period of time. While my overall opinion on these interfaces may be slightly biased, the comparison will be made on actual features and real user reviews.

A short comparison between these two interface.

A short comparison between these two interface.

Build quality
The Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 is packed in an aluminum case that seems solid and resistant to shocks. The UR22 has a similar metal body, making it heavy and durable. Both interfaces have sturdy and superior level buttons. We have a tie here.

Sample rate and audio resolution
There are some features on the UR22 that may surpass Scarlett 2i2, like the sample rate: 96kHz on Scarlet 2i2 vs 192kHz on Steinberg UR22. This is not necessarily a definitive difference between these two audio interfaces, since most users record at 44.1 kHz or 48 kHz. For a home studio, recording at 96kHz is more than enough. The maximum resolution is the same on both interfaces: 24-bit. UR22 won this round.

Preamps
Included preamps are of great importance and they should weight a lot in your decision to buy an audio interface for your home studio. After testing both devices, I truly believe that Focusrite’s 2i2 is superior in terms of preamps, since it features the same D-Pre mic preamps found in their flagship device, the Liquid Saffire 56. While UR22′s preamps are pretty clean (I would say “common” is the right word to describe them), the preamps on Scarlett 2i2 are spectacular. As you may already know, Focusrite has an established 25 years history of manufacturing great audio devices with outstanding preamps. Focusrite Scarlett won this round.

MIDI in/out feature
This round is won hands down by the Steinberg UR22 interface, since there are no MIDI connectors on Focusrite Scarlett 2i2. UR22 won this round.

Software support
Again, I do believe that Steinberg UR22 is better in terms of software support and compatibility especially if you are working on Steinberg Cubase software. While I was using the Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 with Cubase 5 I noticed rare crashes and buffer problems when I was using too many effects. The UR22 worked flawlessly in Cubase. Both devices have recording software included in the box, the 2i2 has the Ableton Live Lite 8 while the UR22 has the Cubase 6 software. I think that Cubase 6 is better for a home studio project. UR22 won this round.

Users’s reviews and price
Steinberg UR22 costs $149.99 and Scarlett 2i2 costs $114. In terms of users’ rating, the UR22 has 4/5 stars while the 2i2 has 4.5/5 stars. As you can see, 2i2 is cheaper and is has better rating (according to Amazon).

Steinberg-UR22-vs-Focusrite-Scarlett-2i2 coremic

My conclusion
As you can see in the feature comparison above, Steinberg UR22 could be seen as a better choice if you need an audio interface for your home studio. Now, I will share my own conclusion.If you plan to record vocals and you have an aditional MIDI port on other device in your studio then Scarlett 2i2 is a wiser choice. Its outstanding preamps will definitely make the difference. Users on Amazon have given this interface a better rating. If you need quality, go with Scarlett 2i2.

If you already own a great preamp in your home studio, then you should go for Steinberg  UR22, since it has better features and software support. Also, it has a superior sample rate.

What’s your favorite audio interface? Read complete review on UR22 and on 2i2.

Blue Yeti USB Microphone Review and Price

If you read my previous article on how to choose the proper home studio equipment then you know that the microphone is the first piece in the recording chain and you should choose it carefully. If you decide to go with a USB microphone then you probably are on a tight budget or you need it for limited projects. Don’t get your hopes down yet, there are still few budget USB mics out there that are perfect for a small home studio, and Blue Yeti microphone is definitely in the top of the list.

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How to choose the equipment needed for setting up a home studio

If you ended on this page you are probably just like me, in love with music. I bet that ever since you can remember you wanted to make music, you wanted to make your voice heard and get some credits for all that dormant creativity that’s inside you. But before becoming a worldwide music star (or at least a local star) you need to have your own recording studio where you can transform the musical ideas in your head into beautiful sounds. In this article I will tell you about the best way to choose all the equipment needed for setting up a basic home studio.
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Steinberg UR22 USB Audio Interface Review

The field of low-budget audio interfaces is definitely crowded, and we will find outstanding products like the ones manufactured by M-Audio or Focusrite. After successfully making a name into the music software niche with its Cubase, Steinberg is trying to penetrate the hardware market with its audio interface. Steinberg UR22 USB is a fresh audio interface that aims the musicians to create a music studio on a low-budget. Here is the Steinberg UR22 USB Audio Interface review.
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How to fix audio interface buzzing, clicking and popping sounds

Some audio interfaces that use the USB or PCI port will add strange noises to the recordings or to your playbacks. This is a common issue for most USB audio interfaces, and there are some things that you can do in order to fix this the problem.

The problem
When you use your audio interface, there are a variety of reasons that can create pops, clicks, dropouts, crackles or distortion when you record or when you playback. Usually, this happens because the digital recording uses too much resources from your computer. Other times, it happens because there are other components on your computer that interfere with the audio interface, creating unpleasant sounds.

The fix
As I said, there are many reasons for hearing buzzing, clicking and popping sounds on your audio interface. I’m going to start with the simplest fixes, and finish with the most complex ones. You need to “try and test” every one of them until you spot the actual problem.

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Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 Audio Interface Review

If you read my previous articles on “How to make a home recording studio” you know that I usually recommend Focusrite audio interfaces in most of them. Now, it’s time to see more details about one of the best audio interface for a home studio that’s actually affordable. No, it’s more than affordable, it’s cheap! In this article I will present an extended review on Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 Audio Interface USB 2.0. There so are many pros about this small device, starting with its price, its small dimensions or the input combo feature, but I think its ultimately feature is represented by the two Focusrite microphone pre-amplifiers that brings unparalleled  clean signal path for the condenser microphone, for the guitar or for line-in sources.

Focusrite Scarlett 2i4 USB Audio Interface Continue reading