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Native Instruments Komplete Audio 6 VS. Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 Studio

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  • Native Instruments Komplete Audio 6 VS. Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 Studio

    I am i need of advice. 

    At some point in the future I will be purchasing an audio interface for a home recording studio.  I will be recording guitars (both acoustic and electric) and will most likely also be recording vocals.  I currently have no gear for home recording--no mics, interfaces, monitors, software aside from Audacity, or any other equipment necessary for a studio (if I missed something vital in that list, please let me know).

    I am going for quality on a budget.  I currently have my eyes on a Shure SM57 or a Shure PG58 for primary guitar recording.  I will need a condenser mic for vocals/guitar-room-mic.  I would prefer monitor headphones over regular monitors, due to the fact that I live in an apartment, and the neighbors may not appreciate me mixing rock music at 4 in the morning.  And of course, I will need an interface and software.

    I have researched, and come to two primary contenders that seem to fit my needs well.  They are:

     

    Focusrite Scarlett Studio:

    http://www.guitarcenter.com/Focusrite-Scarlett-Studio-108734690-i2900517.gc

    (Anderton's review of the interface alone--no microphone or headphones):

    http://www.harmonycentral.com/t5/Expert-Reviews/Focusrite-2i2-USB-2-0-Audio-Interface/ba-p/34645879

     

    Native Instruments Komplete Audio 6:

    http://www.guitarcenter.com/Native-Instruments-Komplete-Audio-6-106707169-i1896199.gc?source=4WWRWXGP&gclid=CLSf37GP9LkCFSVB QgodTjkAcw&kwid=productads-plaid^32411604641-sku^106707169@ADL4GC-adType^PLA-device^c-adid^13625729441

    http://www.harmonycentral.com/t5/Expert-Reviews/Native-Instruments-KOMPLETE-Audio-6-Audio-Interface/ba-p/35928073

     

    As far as I can see, the point-by-point comparison as they apply to my needs are:

    Focusrite: 

    at $249.99 new, the studio pack is more expensive than the Native's $229.99.  However, this includes Focusrite's condenser microphone and monitor headphones, negating the need to buy those separately, and so overall the Focusrite will be easily cheaper--so long as they are good quality.  I don't need pro gear, but if I can have a competent mic and headphones (i'd guesstimate $200 if I hunted for them individually) for the $20 difference, that would be golden.

    If the interface itself and accompanying software (CUBASE LE6) can match the Native for my purposes, and if the mic and 'phones are solid, I'm definitely going with the Focusrite.

    Native:

    It seems to me (keep in mind i don't have experience with audio interfaces) that the Native interface itself is neither inferior nor superior to the Focusrite.  It has additional inputs and outputs, yes, but I believe I will only ever need the two inputs and outputs offered on the Focusrite (one for cab mic and one for the room mic simultaneously)--the extras on the Native will be appreciated if I ever need them, but for the forseeable future are unnecessary.  If I am incorrect in my assumption, and the Native is significantly better or worse than the Focusrite, please let me know so that I may weigh that factor in.

    I am considering the Native primarily for the included software--guitar effects/modeling, synthesizers, virtual instruments, and MIDI compatibility.  I'm assuming the guitar effects include amp models?   If any of those are good for rock music, I would strongly consider mixiing them with microphone recorded guitars for a bigger, multi-dimensional sound.  Additionally, while I do not use synthesizers in my music at the present time, I may like to in the future.  IF the Native software package would eliminate my need to buy a physical keyboard in the future, that would go a long way into swinging me to buying the Native over the Focursite--specifically, if the total cost of Native+CondenserMic+MonitorHeadphones < Focusrite+Keyboard+Anything-Else-I-Would-Need-To-Record-Keyboards.

     

    I thiiiiiink that's everything that's currently on my mind....  Any comments, advice, facts, alternate products, and personal opinions are very much appreciated.  Thanks for taking the time to read and help me out.


  • #2

    First I wouldn't get too wrapped up in software packages that claim to do a million things and may or may not do any one of them well or suitable to your needs. Since you're just beginning, and asking for advice its likely you don't know what your needs are yet. 

    You can begin on a slim budget but there are 5 essential you must have.

    A good mic

    An interface

    A computer

    Studio Monitors

    A DAW program

    If any of those are missing you will be severely handicapped getting any kind of quality recording.

    The good part is, when it comes to some, you can buy budget and get high quality recordings.

    The mic, You mentioned the SM57, but for hald the cost, a PG57 is a high quality mic few know about. I use them on my guitar cabs over many other great mics because I get great results and they are built like a tank, much better then a SM57, and the vocal quality is very usable. I bought a pair on EBay new for $25 each

    The interface. You can buy an interface like a Lexicon Alpha that comes with Cubase LE and kill two birds with one stone.

    The computer, well you can use just about all newer computers for recording including laptops. So long as they have a USB 2.0 port it should provide amble speed to track. Its better to have a dedicated computer as a daw that's high speed, additional drives, extra memory etc. But that can be part of the upgrade process as you expand. I bought my last DAW on EBay. I found a quad processor bare bones used for $50 and bought some extra hard drives and memory for it. I had the rest of the items left over from other computers I was going to scrap like CD burners, Video cards etc.

    Monitors are key here. Headphones are for tracking only. You can't mix on them no matter how good they are because there is no distance between your ears and the speaker elements. Without this space your cannot properly judge distances and your mixes wind up sounding two dimensional as well as having frequency response problems because a single element can't produce a flat enough frequency response that close to your ear. You can but a set of Alesis studio monitors on sale for as low as $69. The more you spend here the better quality mixes you can get.

    DAW programs, Plugins, Effects and any other suites amp emulators etc. You don't have to spend a dime on these and shouldn't until you've used up all your free options here. Many of them you will use over the best ones being sold at high dollar costs.

    The biggest thing you have to understand are, these software packs wont substitute, nor correct the quality of the other items I mentioned. If your tracks suck because you don't have a good mic, bad monitors, lame interface, poor tracking quality or sound source, you're barking up the wrong tree thinking these programs will do magical things to fix what's unfixable.

    Its true these software packs can do wonderful things mixing, and take the place of hardware versions, but the tracks you have to work with must be great first so you have something to work with.

    The difference between DAW programs has practically zero to do with the recording quality. Track quality comes from your interface, and everything before the interface including the mic, amp etc. Once the interface converts analog to digital, that stream of digital ones and zeros gets routed to your hard drive "untouched" by the DAW program. All the daw program does is set up separate tracks (files) for storage in a logical order the DAW program can retrieve them from.

    Its only when those tracks get played back when a DAW program comes into use and has a major influence on the sound quality "Mixing the recorded tracks.

    Think of it this way. A DAW is your mixing console and multitrack tape recorder that plays back your music. You can stick effects in the aux busses to change the quality of the tracks as you listen. When you track, the only thing you have is a mic and the interfaces preamp that saves the music as a wave file.

    As a note, You can pass an incoming track through a sound effect, amp simulator, EQ etc. The problems with this is you need a really fast computer so the latency (time delay created by the computer processing of what is being done to the ones and zeros) is very low.

    This isn't usually a good method of recording for two reasons. One is, once you've changed the incoming signal, you're stuck with it. If you dial up a bad tone or have too much effect, it can't be undone. Second, if you have a slow computer, the latency will cause you to hear the sound after you've played the note and when you multitrack, this delay will make your music sound sloppy. Its like plugging into an echo unit and turning the balance between dry and wet to full wet. You hit a note and only hear the wet sound and depending on the delay, its impossible to play in real time. If the latency is short you may be able to anticipate the tempo, but for the most part, its going to sound off when you mix.

    If you have to have effect to support your playing, its better to get them before your amp and before your mic. Or you can use hardware effects and record direct without an amp an mic. Again, you'll be stuck with that sound on the track and if it doesn't match the mix very well, you can do little to make it right.

    As far as amp emulators go, you can always dirty up a dry signal and add as much drive and effects as you want mixing. You can plug a guitar straight into most interfaces that have an instrument level input and record a rhythm part 100% clean then put an virtual amp in the effects bus and dial up any amp tone you want with any effects you want, in any order. You could also reamp that clean track through an actual amp and record that amp with a mic to a new track and capture real amp tone.

    There are dozens of free plugins out there. There's a Guitar rig plugin that's free to download, as well as a dozen others you can try. Voxengo makes a great one called Boogex that has dozens of miced cab tones and a very good drive engine and EQ. Its GUI is a little primitive. They don't try to wow you my making it look like a guitar head, but the CPU load is also very low so it wont crash your computer trying to get it to run. This is a much bigger factor in my book. If something gives me good quality at low CPU consumption, I'll choose it every time over some eye candy that sucks my resources dry.

    You should also note, many of your free DAW programs come with basic plugins capable of giving you a great mix with no additional plugins needed. I suggest you learn to use those first, then go find all the free substitutes you can download. I can list your a good hundred that will keep you busy learning for a couple of years. By then, you'll know what's hot and what's not for the work you want to do and you'll may your own wise decisions purchasing them.

    If you get into midi, you of course need a midi keyboard or other midi instrument. If you haven't got one, then it makes no sense buying an interface or software with midi. If you plan on using a keyboard later, then spending a little more on an interface that has a midi port may be wise.

    As far as virtual midi instruments go, again, there are hundreds of free ones out there. Some are experimental, and some are great finished products. You can dig up tons of free VS. and VSTI plugins just goggling. KVR is one of the sites you'll find for both free and low cost plugins. Also in this forum, the first post has hundreds of great plugins listed by posters here. All should be tried and evaluated before you spend a dime on buying others.

    Remember, software manufacturers do make some great products, but they don't do it for free. They will advertise it to make you think the product will do it all for you and all you need to supply is 1% effort as a musician. The reality is, you have to supply the 99% effort getting good tracks recorded and the software will do the 1%. Its a critical 1% that separates the good from the not so hot, but also keep this in mind. If you have great tracks recorded, you don't need any crutches to make it stand on its own. It will sound like gods voice completely dry because of what the performer put into the notes playing his ass off.

     

     

     

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