Is This What I Need To Start?

Hi all, first posting here, and I’m VERY inexperienced with ntrack.
So, I need to ask, I’m planning on using an AUDIGY 2 ZS PCMCIA LAPTOP CARD with my laptop to do all my recording. With this, I hear I need to boost the input? (tell me if I’m wrong please!) so was thinking of a Behringer Pre Amp Booster Effect Pedal - PB100 to put guitar, vocals and keyboard through.

Maybe I’m wrong, I don’t know, but I’m looking for the cheapest option to just get me going, and I can get these items relatively cheap.

Any ideas/comments would be appreciated, thanks

Hi Craig, welcome to N-track, I’m sure you will find it a great product.
Your Berringer pre-amp will do just fine. There are many expirenced n-trackers here that are always will to help so any questions feel free to ask. You might want to visit Audio minds another good resourse.

Good luck


Thanks for that Don. I’ve ordered the pre amp now!

Looking forward to getting going, but it all looks so complicated at the minute…I’m sure it’ll just take a bit of getting used to.



Err, not quite… If you are going to do vocals, that will not do it. You will want a proper preamp. That pedal is clean booster for use with a guitar amp (usually) but is not what one would use with a balanced microphone. For that you will want to look to one of the zillion mic pres out there…

Studio Projects VTB1
M-Audio Audio Buddy or DMP3

those are just a few, but there a soooo many out there, it is impossible to list them all.

Ah…thanks Bubbagump.
I told you I was a novice!!

I’ll have a search for something.

Come on Mark, get that wiki started! :D

I’m desperate to re-write my piece about levels, impedances, loading, etc.

Of course, that’s only banana-logue stuff, I’ll leave the digital crap to the rest of you. :)

The Audigy has “line level” inputs and outputs.

You don’t need any preamp for keyboards, which have line level outputs.

You also usually don’t need a preamp for acoustic guitars with active pickups (the kind that take a battery) because these are also line level outputs. If you have an acoustic guitar with a passive pickup, it probably came with a preamp. (These are less typical these days.)

You also don’t need a preamp for electric guitars with active pickups (the kind that take a battery).

The unit you ordered will work great for recording electric guitars with passive pickups – except that it won’t sound like an electric guitar unless you use amp/cabinet modeling software. Hopefully that’s not what you’re planning to start with, because it’s not really a beginner topic. If it is what you plan, don’t despair because it’s doable, there are just a few technical nits to pick first. Let us know if you plan to record electric guitar because it’s a big fun subject.

For vocals, you need a mike. What kind of mike do you have? With a mike, you need a mike preamp. For starters, I heartily recommend a Behringer UB802 or similar little mixer. (Don’t go smaller like the UB502 which doesn’t have “phantom power”, something you’ll need if you upgrade to a condenser mike later.)

Finally: rarely do acoustic guitars recorded using the pickup sound very good. I listen to a lot of home recorded music, and that sound literally screams “amateur”. Yes, there are notable exceptions like Dave Matthews that use the plugged-in sound and make it work. But in the vast majority of home recordings I’ve heard using built-in pickups, the music would have sounded vastly better if the guitar had been recorded using a mike.

So, let us know a bit more about what it is you plan to do and we can guide you through it. There are a number of fussy little details that we can sort out quickly so you can focus on making music and having fun doing it.

The good news is that recording is so much easier nowadays with computer-based recording, and folks like me can produce results ten times better than we could back in the bad ol’ days of tape, and with less time and effort.


Finally: rarely do acoustic guitars recorded using the pickup sound very good. I listen to a lot of home recorded music, and that sound literally screams “amateur”.

Don’t you mean “quacks” amateur? :)

Oh, also give us an idea of your budget.

I’m a big advocate of the start small and work up method, spending very little and being able to make good recordings, learning what your stuff can do, and then adding slowly and getting the most out of each item as you add it. That’s a lot easier and I think you learn better. On the other hand, there’s no harm in starting out with quality mikes and mike preamps! Just more things to try and a little slower getting started, but you’re less likely to say "I sure wish I had this XXX preamp when I recorded my first CD!"

Final bit of generic advice: when you do start recording, do NOT start with that magnum opus in your mind that you’ve been dying to record! Start with simple tunes and/or covers you know very well and can play very well, with simple but well worked-out arrangements. There’s a lot to learn, and if you start with your special stuff, you’ll be burned out on it by the time you understand what it is you really want to do.

Yup, song writng/arranging/producing aren’t the same thing as recording, mixing, and mastering… Two different sides of the glass.

Wow thanks for those great replies. Just what I needed.

I have tried recording the accoustic through it’s passive pickups and wondered why I couldn’t get that rich sound!
I have a Sure SM58 mic, and I hope that’ll be ok.

At the minute I’m ‘budgeted up’, and anything I do spend will be minimal, but I have an electric guitar (passive pickups again), accoustic steel strung, a not too bad keyboard with decent sounds including drums, I also plan to use some decent drum loops, I know you can’t beat that live drum sound though.

Audigy sound card but I’m hoping my laptop will cope with everything!

Good point about recording covers first…you’re sooo right about wanting to get that masterpiece down!!
When I get everything together and start (my soundcard hasn’t arrived yet) I’ll no doubt be asking more.


You can use the built-in soundcard while waiting for the Audigy. I recorded almost half of the tracks for my CD (see my website below to hear) using the line inputs for the built-in soundcard on my laptop. Also, I used an SM57 to record most of the acoustic guitar – almost the same thing as an SM58. You’ll probably want to upgrade to a condensor mike later, though. (There’s no shortage of upgrades!)

For recording electric guitar, the options are:
- miking your amp (best overall, but also most issues)
- going direct and using amp/cab sim software. For free starters, try Ruby Tube for distortion along with MDA Combo for a little more (different) tube distortion and cabinet simulation. For the real deal, Guitar Rig ($500) gets the best reviews – wish I could spare the change for it!
- Hardware amp/cab sim, like Line 6 Pod, Digitech Genesis-3, or Johnson J-Station (all generally available used on ebay for good prices).

Sims (hw or sw) are nice because you can record while the baby sleeps.
Software sims are great because you can easily fine-tune the tone while listening to the whole mix, but you have to configure your setup for “low latency” – a whole 'nuther topic.
Miking your amp you get the great tone of your real amp. Small amps tend to be best (definitely easiest) for miking. But room preparation issues are crucial, and there are 50 different things to try to get that bomb sound (different mike positions & angles, different amp positions & angles, closets, bathrooms, doors open/closed, no end of things to try!)

Psst, I’ll let you in on a secret… take the ball off of a 58… and it magically becomes a 57. (Well, not exactly, but dern close.)

Correct, but frankly, there’s no need. The ball changes the sound a bit but not necessarily in a bad way.

That is, try it both ways and use whichever sounds best for the purpose. Just be extra careful with the mike when the ball is off.