Updated 04 Feb 2006
Note: use http://www.unmusic.co.uk/amh-s-faq.html to bookmark this
To contribute to the FAQ email me (killermike) using this address: mike
at unmusic dot co dot uk or raise the matter in the news group. Any
submitted material will include a credit to the author.
Purpose of this
Section 1 of this FAQ contains answers to some commonly raised
questions about alt.music.home-studio. Before taking part in the group,
you might want to at least skim through this section.
Section 2 contains some information about the actual practice of audio
recording. Section 2 is not supposed to be an in depth explanation of
recording techniques, there are better resources for that on the
Internet. That section is aimed largely at people new to home studio
recording. When embarking on a new type of activity, it is often
difficult to know what the issues actually are and it is
to know what questions to ask more experienced people. Hopefully
section 2 will help people to understand the basic principals at work
and thus to better form their questions. It also contains some of the
most basic and commonly asked questions in the group. Hopefully after
looking through it, a newcomer to the subject won't be forced to post
an unanswerable question such as "How do I record my music with my
Section 1 - The Group
1.1 - What is this group for?
1.2 - When/why was the group created?
1.3 - Didn't the group already exist?
1.4 - How do I access the group?
1.5 - I requested the group from my news
been over a week
and I have had no response from them and the group has not appeared.
1.6 - May I post binaries to
1.7 - Can I use the group to organize
with other musicians?
1.8 - What languages may I use to post to
1.9 - I've just got the group or I have
just decided to
start taking part, can I introduce myself to the group?
1.10 - Is it considered acceptable to post
my work for criticism?
1.11 - What sort of things have been
discussed in the
1.12 - Explanations of some common terms
which are peculiar to this group
1.13 - Is there a listing of regular
1.14 - Can I use the group for discussion
or cracked software (where to get it etc)?
Section 2 - Home Studio Techniques
I would like to record some of my music. What do I need?
2.2 - I would like to record some music. I
would like to
songs that I have written. My music consists of some acoustic guitars,
an electric guitar and a drum machine along with my singing. I would
like to record the music into my computer. I am just getting started
so, I want to do it all on a minimal budget.
2.3 - I would like to buy a sound interface (soundcard) for my
What should I get?
2.4 - What is IRQ sharing, how can it be
avoided and is
it a problem?
2.5 - What is an effect loop and how is one
using my muti-track audio recording software, I find that
each track I record has the sound of the previous audio channels
recorded along with the new material.
Q - What is this group for?
A - From the charter:
"The group is for the discussion of issues relating to home studio
based or other amateur audio recording or processing for musicians. The
newsgroup is un moderated. Spam is not allowed. Off-topic posts are
discouraged but permitted if they have some interest to the majority of
subscribers. Any off-topic posts must have "OT:" (without the quotes)
or a similar indication present in the subject field. Binaries are not
permitted but posting links to online audio files of interest to other
users of the group would be permitted and encouraged. Other types of
hobbyist, amateur or semi professional audio discussion that is not
directly related to the central topic of of the newsgroup is
also tolerated to some extent but if there is a more appropriate
newsgroup for the discussion of a subject, this can pointed out to the
That pretty much covers it.
Q - When/why was the group created?
A - The group was created after some discussion in alt.music.4-track
It was setup as a place for the discussion of home recording for
amateur and semi professional musicians.
Q - Didn't the group already exist?
A - No. From a post I (killermike) made on the subject to rec.audio.pro:
"I would like to clarify a few issues raised further down in this in
this thread. First of all, it *was* alt.music.home-recording that
already existed. The group must have been created long ago and then
abandoned. It doesn't even have a control message archived at
ftp://ftp.isc.org/. The only online reference I could find to the
group was a few server logs in google web search and it is mentioned as
one of the newsgroup headers in some cross posted messages in the
google Usenet archives. At one point, it was suggested that it might be
a good idea to resurrect alt.music.home-recording rather than to create
a new group from scratch. Unfortunately, I somehow made a mistake and
started working under the assumption that alt.music.home-studio was the
now dead group that needed resurrection. What this basically adds up to
is that I created alt.music.home-studio rather than resurrecting
alt.music.home-recording. As you can imagine, I feel pretty stupid for
making such a mistake. I would also like to apologize to anyone that I
may have inconvenienced by my getting mixed up in a thread in
alt.music.4-track. However, it should make no real difference to the
future of the new newsgroup. "
Q - How do I access the group?
A - If the group is already on your news server, you simply subscribe
to it with your news reader software. If the group does not show up
within the list of available newsgroups on your news you may have to
request it. First, make sure that you first update your list of
available groups to make sure that it hasn't been recently added. The
procedure for making such a request varies from ISP to ISP. Typically
it would consist of sending an email to the news admin of your ISP.
This is often something like newsmaster@[yourisp].com
Q - I requested the group from my news server. It's been over a week
and I have had no response from them and the group has not appeared.
A - First of all, your provider offers poor customer service. If there
was some reason that they could not offer offer the group, they should
have emailed you with an explanation. Some providers will fulfill a
customer request and assume that the fulfillment of this request is an
answer in itself, which is acceptable practice, in my opinion.
The next thing you can do is send a more verbose request. Include the
The control messages are archived here:
Google feature the group and it's contents can be viewed here (sorry
for long URL):
There is an information page for the group here:
There is an FAQ file for the group here:
It might also be a good idea to include some full headers from messages
already in the group. Obviously, you can't obtain these until you can
access the group, so email me or another regular from the group asking
for these. Another way of getting the headers would be to find a free
news server that carries the group (perhaps read only) and then get the
headers from some existing messages that way.
Some providers might not add a group until more than one of their users
asks for the group. If you know any of the other users, ask them to
request it too.
Q - May I post binaries to alt.music.home-studio?
A - No. Under no circumstances may you post binaries to
alt.music.home-studio. alt.music.home-studio is a text only group. If
you have a file to share with the members of the group, put it on line
somewhere and post the URL. Posting links to your music to share with
the group is encouraged.
Q - Can I use the group to organize collaborations with other musicians?
A - Certainly. Using the group to recruit others to collaborate with
you with you on a project is actively encouraged. Just post up a
message saying what sort of thing you are planning to do (perhaps, with
a link to examples of your work or an unfinished version of the project
in question) and sit back to see if anyone is interested. Also, if you
are interested in on line collaboration, scan back through old messages
to see if anyone else has made a request for collaborators on a project
that you might be interested in.
Q - What languages may I use to post to the group?
A - amh-s in an English language only group.
Q - I've just got the group or I have just decided to start taking
part, can I introduce myself to the group?
A - Sure. Why not post a quick "New to the group" message and tell us a
bit about yourself? Tell us if you have a website, what sort of music
you like to produce, what sort of equipment you have, etc.
Q - Is it considered acceptable to post examples of my work for
A - Yes it is. Do not
post a sound
recording directly to the group - post a link to it
People are more likely to reply in a helpful manner if you include some
details about the recording and yourself. Typical information would
include: an overview of the equipment you used, software used,
interesting techniques employed, what type of advice you would like,
etc. People aren't forced to respond to your request for criticism or
help but they are more likely to if you provide these extra recording
details. If you have some material that you would like to share with
the group but don't know how, just ask in the group.
Q - What sort of things have been discussed in the past?
A - Threads which provoked interesting discussion in the past include:
Recordings of live events such as worship performances and rock
performances, micing techniques for acoustic instruments, mixing
techniques, software recommendations, integrating midi into a setup,
evaluations of recordings, the sexual technique of George P, etc.
Q - Explanations of some common terms and acronyms which are peculiar
to this group
A - Not a lexicon of all specialist terms in use on the Internet and in
the audio field but there are some that are specific to this group
[needs adding to (killermike)]
- RAP - rec.audio.pro - a long established audio newsgroup.
Although it has been suggested that the 'pro' part of the name might
actually be an abbreviation of 'production' rather than 'professional'.
The focus of this group
tends more toward audio professionals than hobbyist and amateurs
although everyone is welcome. The group has a tremendous amount of
traffic and can be a bit intimidating for this reason.
Q - Is there a listing of regular participants?
A - There is the amhs webring - AMHS
Webring Home.Use that link to add your own site to the list
browse other member sites.
The webring has been abandoned. There is now a AMHS hubsite which includes a list of regular contributers. Click here to visit the amhs hubsite.
Q - Can I use the group for discussion of pirated or cracked software
(where to get it etc)?
A - This was discussed in the following thread http://tinyurl.com/5dem2
outcome of that discussion was the majority of people who participated
in the thread didn't think that it was a suitable topic of discussion
for the thread.
Q - I would like to record some of my music. What do I need?
A - This question is too broad to be answered in any meaningful
way. It is the responsibility of the person asking this question
to first define exactly what it is that they are trying to achieve.
are some of the questions that have to be answered:
- What instruments to you play?
- What equipment do you have already?
- How much are you willing to spend?
- What sort of music do you want to create?
- Broadly, you first need some sort of recording device
computer, tape recorder, etc). You then need some sort of instrument.
You then need some way of getting the music from your instrument and
into the recording device (midi cable, microphone, etc).
Q - I would like to record some music. I would like to record some
songs that I have written. My music consists of some acoustic guitars,
an electric guitar and a drum machine along with my singing. I would
like to record the music into my computer. I am just getting started
so, I want to do it all on a minimal budget.
A - In this example you need a computer with a sound card, a microphone, a mic pre amp, some
way of monitoring the
sounds that you
record and some recording
- I would presume that if you are reading this, you have
computer. Nearly all modern computers should be powerful enough for
basic multi track sound recording. If your computer is a PC and has
a 300mhz processor in it, your computer might be a bit underpowered.
- Most computers sold today have sound capabilities of some
unsure, look around the back. What you are looking for is a socket
marked 'line in'. If you have that, your computer should already be
suitable for the sort of recording you want to do.
- Obviously, more specialized, higher quality add on sound
bought for higher quality recording and playback. The price of these
on cards can range from 20 pounds to thousands of pounds. The stock
sound card in your computer can be of variable quality but it is
to be of brilliant quality.
The majority of people who use a computer might use the sound playback
facilities for games and occasionally listening to music. Similarly,
people's use of the sound input capabilities of their computer might
stretch to some Internet telephony applications at best. The quality of
a stock sound card tends to be reflective of this.
- A laptop computer can present special difficulties. Some
mic in, but this tends to be designed for applications such as video
conferencing and dictation and of a rather low quality.
- See next section of this FAQ for more detail on sound cards
other types of audio adapter.
Mic Pre Amp
- Obviously, if you want to record the sound of an acoustic
your voice you are going to need a microphone. Microphones start at
around 20 pounds and extend right up to thousands of pounds. Briefly,
there are two main types of microphone that the home studio recordist
might employ - dynamic microphones and condenser microphones. Briefly,
at the low end of the price spectrum, dynamic microphones tend to be
cheaper and more robust. Condenser microphones are more expensive, more
sensitive and require a mic preamp or a mixer that can provide phantom
power (see below for explanation of mic pre amps). Condenser mics are
usually very suitable for acoustic instruments such as the acoustic
guitar and for recording a singer. Dynamics are usually suited to live
vocal recording, recording the sound produced by an electric guitar
amplifier speaker cabinet and are used in drum recording.
- A cheap dynamic mic is usually a good first purchase.
- The purpose of a mic pre amp is to amplify the weak signal
a microphone and to bring it up to 'line level' so that is can be
recorded (for example into the 'line in' of your sound card).
Some condenser microphones also require that the mic pre amp provide
power for them (in the form of 'phantom power'). Most mixing desks
include mic pre amps in them and home recordists often buy them for
this purpose. Whether you should buy a stand alone mic preamp or a
desk with built in mic pre amps is outside the scope of this FAQ
For a mixer with built in mic pre amps, the Behringer and Mackie entry
level products are popular choices.
- Basically, the mic plugs into the mic preamp
(or mixer) and then outputs a signal suitable for your recorder.
- In the above example, the recordist doesn't have any need
sequencing. NTrack is popular entry level package that is often
recommended. Cubase, Cakewalk and Logic Audio are full blown MIDI/audio
sequencers and perhaps overkill for a project of this type. The multi
track version of Cool Edit has only sparse midi editing facilities but
comes highly recommended and
would be suitable for this project.
- Obviously, you need some sort of system with which to hear
you are recording. This is called monitoring. While tracking
(recording) you need to hear a previous track so that you can add a new
track while keeping time with the old one.
- Another situation in which you would need to employ
during the mixing or mastering phases of the project.
- The low end of the monitoring spectrum would be a domestic
'multimedia speakers' that you already use with your computer. Most
consumer HiFi systems are designed to flatter the music by emphasizing
certain qualities. Specialized computer 'multimedia' speakers are
particularly guilty of this. When recording and mastering, you need a
speaker and amplification system with a flat response that will allow
you to really hear what is happening on the track.
- For example - It is quite common, when mastering on your
create a mix that only 'works' on your system. Take it to someone
else's system and it suddenly sounds awful.
- You might find that a bass
line that was loud and clear on your system disappears when played on
other people's systems. On the other hand, you might, when listening on
someone else's system or a set of proper monitor speakers, discover an
unpleasant element of the sound that was inaudible on your HiFi. Proper
monitor speakers should offer a flat response and will give you an idea
of what the mix really sounds
- When monitoring on your HiFi, the best you can do is to try
as flat a sound as you can. That is, something that is truly
representative of the sound on the actual track rather than something
that flatters it or conceals unpleasant aspects of the sound. With
multimedia speakers, switch off anything that might add flattering
emphasis or concealment. Look for things that say 'hyper bass' etc.
Switch off the 'surround sound' features of your system also as these
can affect the sound in an unpredictable way.
- If you are recording everything in one room, headphones are
used for monitoring while recording. If a microphone is picking up the
sound of your instrument or voice, it is not desirable for it to also
pick up the sound of the other tracks that you have recorded previously
or a metronome from your monitoring system.
- At the very least, if you do not own proper monitoring
even if you do), listen to the piece of music on some different sound
systems. You might be surprised how different it sounds on different
systems or what deficiencies in your mix these other systems reveal.
- Plug the mic into the mic input on your mic preamp. Plug
output into the line in on your sound card. Plug the line out of the
sound card into your monitoring system.
- Important: Keep the output volume of the mic preamp on zero
are ready to use it! If you use a microphone in the vicinity of the
speakers you are using to monitor the speakers, you risk recording the
sound output of the speakers. This has the potential to cause two
problems - Firstly, you risk 'polluting' the sound you are trying to
record by adding to it the sound coming out of of the speakers.
Secondly, you risk creating a feedback loop - the sound comes out of
the speakers, into the mic and back out of the speakers ad infinitum.
This feedback loop is usually heard as a loud unpleasant whining sound.
This sound could potentially cause damage to your speakers! Typically,
you might not activate your microphone until you have de-activated your
speakers system and activated your headphones.
Q I would like to buy a sound interface (soundcard) for my computer.
What should I get?
A - If you are ready to purchase a sound input/output device for your
computer you need to specify the following:
How many inputs?
- This is the first question you need to ask yourself. If you
reading this, you probably have a computer. If it is a fairly modern
computer, it probably has audio capabilities. Don't be fooled into
thinking that you can't, at the very least, get started and have play
around with digital audio recording and sequencing without buying a
semi pro audio sound card. Certainly, consider having an experiment
with the hardware you already have. Doing so will probably give you a
better insight into what areas of your computer you need to upgrade. If
you are not sure what the audio capabilities of your current setup are,
you might consider asking on the group.
How Many Outputs
Do I Need?
- How many elements do you want to record simultaneously to
tracks? If for example, you wanted to record two acoustic guitars and a
voice at the same time onto separate tracks, you will need some sort
of sound interface which features at least three inputs.
- If you wanted to, you could theoretically record an entire
a single track using an interface with only one audio input. But what
you would loose with a set-up of this type is the ability to process
individually the recording you had made of each element.
- Typically, it is preferable to have the recording of each
it's own track so that you can make adjustments afterward. You might
for example, want to remove the lower frequencies from the vocal track,
pan the guitar fully to the left of the stereo field and add some
reverb to second guitar. If these were all mixed together on one track,
any alterations you carried out, post recording, would have to be
performed globally on all of the instruments.
- Conversely, with multi track audio software, you could
record many instruments, each to it's own discrete audio track, using
just a single audio input. You might start by recording your guitar, to
a track and then record a bass guitar on another track and so on and so
on... until you had built up a full arrangement.
the number of audio
inputs governs the number of simultaneous
audio sources you can record to individual tracks.
- So, how many do you need? If you have a typical home studio
synthesizers, a couple of mics and some instruments, a four input
soundcard might be adequate. This arrangement would give you a stereo
pair of inputs to record the output of your synthesizers (perhaps mixed
together using a keyboard sub mixer) and also a free pair of inputs to
record your other instruments. You could get away with a two channel
(stereo) interface with this arrangement but it would be less
as you would have to use the same stereo pair for recording instruments
and the output of your synthesizers. When making a final stereo master
for burning to CD or MP3 etc, you would need to unplug and re arrange
- You might find that a two input (stereo) soundcard is
are working with mostly real instruments but only require two inputs at
once, the synth sound sources you do use are software generated inside
the computer or you are working with synths but are happy to make audio
recordings of your playing them rather than entering them into the
sequencer as MIDI.
- Your requirements might be more extensive however. If you
record an entire band simultaneously playing together with each element
on it's own track, you might need an 8, 16 or even more input card.
What sort of bus
Firewire, PCI, etc) do I want to use?
- Firstly - the number of outputs on the card does not, in
the number of separate tracks you can play back. If the rest of your
computer is powerful enough, you could play back a hundred tracks at
the same time with only a stereo output soundcard.
- Some cards feature more than two outputs. One use for these
outputs would so that you could process a track through external
hardware such as the EQ on a mixing desk or a reverb processor. When
specifying the number of outputs you need, remember that you could
probably do this processing from within your software. You only need to
do external processing of this type if you have a piece of equipment
with a specific sound that you cannot create in software.
- Other uses for extra external outputs including, routing
track from the
computer into a mixing desk and surround sound generation are outside
the scope of this FAQ.
- PCI cards take the form of an upgrade card that needs to be
fitted to the inside of a desktop computer (no laptops) USB and
Firewire interfaces are plugged into an external socket on the back of
the computer. USB and Firewire devices are therefore, external devices.
- Many laptop computers feature built-in Firewire of USB
If you are using a laptop for your audio work, you are limited to an
external expansion bus such as Firewire or USB. Laptops can also use
- In summary, desktop machines might have an inclusive USB or
Firewire adapter built in. If they don't one can usually be added. This
means that desktop machines could use Firewire, USB or PCI audio
adapters. Laptops can not use PCI but might feature USB or Firewire
sockets on them. Most laptops also feature an expansion standard called
PCMCIA that is almost unheard of on desktop machines.
USB or Firewire
- Some sound cards of this type feature the line level audio
and outputs on the back of the card itself, thus adding them to the
back of your computer. Some sound cards might instead add a socket into
which you add a 'breakout box'. A breakout box is an external box that
can sit on your desk and features all of the audio input and output
sockets. The advantages of a breakout box are that the audio
connections can be placed in a convenient location and that the audio
connection cables from your studio equipment aren't placed close to the
computer which is a source of electromagnetic noise.
PCI cards (sound
- Firewire has more capacity than USB 1.2 and is the better
standard in most respects for audio applications. Two tracks of audio
in and out is close to the limit of USB 1.2 total bandwidth. There is a
newer USB standard called USB 2.0 that aims to compete with Firewire
for applications such as this.
- Two advantages of external audio adapters are that they can
used with a laptop and that a desktop computer does not need to be
opened up to fit them. With an external audio adapter, you might unplug
it from your own machine and then take it to another location which has
a suitably equipped computer. Or you could share the audio adapter
between your desktop machine and your laptop.
- PCI cards tend to be cheaper. You would always expect to
higher spec PCI audio adapter for the same amount of money as an
external Firewire or USB based solution.
- In a situation in which you want to build a mobile
you might find that a suitable laptop along with a Firewire card is a
good solution. In a situation in which the audio setup is only ever
going to be used in a single location, an external Firewire based card
might be a waste of money.
- Bear in mind that most audio adapters cannot be used with a
microphone without additional hardware. Most audio adapters expect
level' audio and the output from microphones is weaker than this. See
the previous FAQ section for an explanation of mic preamps. There are
sound cards which feature built in mic preamps.
- This is a contentious issue currently. CD digital audio
bit depth of 16 bits and sample rate of 44.1khz. Some newer musician
orientated sound cards can work with higher sample rates and bit
It is common, when in engaged in all types of audio/video production
work, to work at a
higher quality than the end medium (CD audio in most cases for home
- There are, certainly, good reasons for working in these
bit rates (such as 24 bit, 96khz) even at the home studio level but it
is also a certainty that 16bit 44khz audio can be used to produce
professional results and that many 16bit 44khz interfaces have superb
recording and playback quality.
latency cause a problem?
- Latency, in this application, is the time delay between
computer starts playing a sound and the point when the audio interface
actually emits the sound in a form you can hear it.
- Sound card latency need not cause serious problems. On all
properly designed audio interfaces, this latency is consistent. The
audio software knows about latency and compensates for it. For example,
if you had a sound card with a latency of half a second, the software
knows this and plays all sound exactly one half second early.
- Some better sound cards now have very low latency.
- Latency can cause problems in some situations. If for
you wanted to apply real time computer effects (such as reverb, pitch
shift) to an audio source such as a vocal, the effected vocal would be
played back (for example) half a second after you made the sound. This
would be rather disconcerting if you were trying to sing along to a
backing track. With a high latency sound card, it is only really
practical to apply effects to a sound source, after it has been
may or not be a problem, depending on your working methods.
- If you have a really low latency sound card, you should be
to use audio software as a effects unit for external sound sources. It
is quite possible, for example, to use software to add distortion, amp
simulation and reverb to a guitar sound in real time.
- It is common for visual cues such as level meters to move
time with the audio being produces if you have a high latency audio
- Most USB 1.2 devices are high latency.
Q - What is IRQ sharing, how can it be avoided and is it a problem?
A - PC compatibles running Windows can have this problem.
PCI expansion slot is assigned an IRQ number. System resources such as
IDE channels, AGP graphics, USB and Firewire also have an IRQ number.
When two system resources are assigned to the same IRQ, problems can
occur. Typical symptoms of an IRQ clash can include stuttering, popping
sound or system slowdown/crashes during audio playback/record.
Here is an edited version of a post that I made to alt.steinberg.cubase
on the subject of
troubleshooting IRQ conflicts:
"Bottom line - IRQ sharing is
be problem free on modern
systems but I've had bad luck when attempting it and I've heard lots of
reports of other people having problems with it.
On mother board
I have encountered each of the PCI
slots is hardwired to an IRQ. Unfortunately, each of the those IRQs is
usually hardwired to a system resource too. So, it would seem that your
PCI slot 1 is hardwired to IRQ 11 and that the AGP slot is also
hardwired to IRQ 11. Moving the card into another slot should overcome
However, bare in mind that each of the other slots probably shares an
IRQ with a system resource as well. For example, slot 2 might be on the
same IRQ as USB, which could cause more problems if you want to use USB
and the audio card at the same time.
There is often a page in
that tells you which slot is hardwired
to which IRQ. However, this won't help you resolve conflicts because
when you change the IRQ assigned to a slot, the system resource that it
shares with will also change (on every board I've ever used, at least).
So, a bit of experimentation is probably required. You could try going
into the BIOS setup and making a note of which slot is linked to which
IRQ. On most systems, there is screen that pops up after the POST
test has completed and just before the operating system starts to boot.
This screen often gives a list of IRQ assignments. I consider this list
to be definitive and the information in Windows' Device Manager to be
less reliable/accurate. This screen can go by too quickly so you could
put a blank floppy disk into the drive (which should produce an error)
to keep that screen up. [Update
- I just discovered a neat little trick: pressing the 'Break/Pause' key
causes this screen to stay up. I had to press space to get the machine
to continue booting.]
So in short, technically, it may be possible to run more than one
resource on the IRQ but in practice, it often causes problems and is
probably best avoided. It is good practice to make sure that no two
resources which will be used during audio/midi recording occupy the
Q - What is an effect loop and how is one used?
A - Most mixing desks and many portable multitrack recorders
(portastudios) feature an effects send-return loop. Put simply, an
effects loop allows you to apply an effect (such as reverb) to an
incoming signal or to an already recorded track.
To illustrate the usefulness of an effects loop, let's look at how you
might apply an effect to a signal on a recording setup that does not
feature an effect loop. One might plug a guitar into a multi fx device
and then into a recording input of a recording device. This allows you
to record the guitar plus effect onto a tape track. This is called
using the effect 'in line'.
However, it is often the case that having recorded something, one might
want to alter the amount and type of effects and a track. If the
recordist has recorded with the effect it is impossible to remove the
sound of the effect from the recording. This is very common in
recording. One might have a different view of what effects sound right
upon adding more tracks and hearing the effected tracks in context as
apposed to hearing them in isolation.
This is where the effect send-return loop becomes useful. Plug the send
of your recording setup into the input of your effects unit. Now take
the output of your effects unit and plug it into the effect return of
your recorder. Now, by adjusting the send for an individual track, you
can add the effect to an incoming signal or an already recorded track.
With this sort of setup it would be possible to record an acoustic
guitar completely dry (no effects) and then add some reverb to the
track afterwards. Or you might have loads of reverb on the track when
recording and then decide to lessen the amount when listening to
playback. In other words, you haven't committed yourself to any sound
while still at the recording stage. You are deferring your final choice
of effect type and amount until the mixing process.
Another advantage of an effects loop is that it enables you to share an
effects unit between multiple tracks. You start by plugging, for
example, a reverb into the effects loop. You might then increase the FX
send to varying degrees on the acoustic guitar, vocal and snare tracks.
One effects unit can service multiple tracks. Musically, this makes
sense because it puts each of the tracks 'into the same reverb space'
just like acoustic instruments would be if you were listening to a live
Yet another advantage is a quality one. If you had a unit with an
effects loop, I would have advised setting the reverb patch on your
guitar unit to 100% wet. This way, if you have a reverb unit of only
marginal quality, only the *reverb*
is of low quality - the original signal passes through at it's original
quality. For example, many pro studios still use an old Roland 12bit
reverb unit because it has a great sound. They use it in an effects
loop. If they used it in line, the whole track would be grainy, 12bit
quality. Putting it on a send/return loop, only the ambiance that they
are adding is of 12bit quality.
When using my
muti-track audio recording software, I find that each track I record
has the sound of the previous audio channels recorded along with the
A. Some soundcards have the facility to make a recording of any sound
that they output. Some soundcards (Creative Labs for example) have this
feature enabled by by default. The setting can be accessed from the
control panel application for the soundcard. The setting is sometimes
called 'record:what you hear' or similar.