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Old 03-18-2023, 11:11 AM   #1 (permalink)
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Default Newbie requesting equipment setup recommendation

Hi Folks -

I would like to ask for advice for what equipment I should acquire.

Please bear in mind that I am probably woefully ignorant of audio equipment compared with all of you.

Objective: To be able to gig at home with a minimum of four input sources: three singers on microphones and one of the following: an electric piano; or an electric-acoustic guitar (or ukulele); or a harmonica (with mic). I want to be able to individually control the volume of each input and record the gigs. It is not important that the setup be portable enough to leave the house.

Proposed solution. What I think I need is a 4-channel keyboard amp plus four microphones. Three of the mics would be for the three vocalists and the fourth would be placed in front of the amp speaker and connected to a PC to record the speaker output.

What I have so far:

+ Windows 10 laptop
+ Windows 11 tower pc with Bose USB speakers
+ harmonica
+ Yamaha PSR-GX76 electric piano that has MIDI and line outputs
+ a Concert ukulele with electric pickup (this is a loaner, and I might replace it with an electric-acoustic guitar)

Investigation I have done so far:

I have spent several hours over the past week researching home studios and keyboard amps.

Initially, I was in love with the idea of buying a home studio and using it both for gigging (using the monitor port/speakers) and mixing. But, after reading sad tales in amazon.com audio interface (6-8 different brands of audio interfaces) reviews reported by obviously experienced home studio users, I don't feel that I am ready for the complexity of choosing home studio components and setting them up and using the setup.

I understand that if I go the route of using an amp, that I need a 'keyboard amp' (vs guitar amp) in order to support the wide frequency range of my electric piano. My current thinking is that a 20 watt amp would be sufficient.

A PA system seems to be overkill for my situation.

A fourth possibility is to connect the input devices (mics, piano, etc) directly to my Windows 11 PC and play the music through my Bose Companion 5 speakers. I'm not sure that this option would easily provide volume control of the individual inputs.

Is there a 5th alternative that I'm overlooking?

In searching for keyboard amps, it appears that most of the amps in the 20 watt range provide only two inputs. I've found amps that provide four or more channels, much higher watts, and cost $500 and up.

So, do I need to pay $500 or more in order to get the functionality that I want?

You are invited to point out where I am making bad assumptions or have overlooked better solutions.

Thanks in advance!

Ralph
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Old 03-25-2023, 01:38 PM   #2 (permalink)
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Hi there

I think you should get something like a focusrite Clarett or Scarlett with enough inputs. I'd probably go for 8. The Roland Studio Capture is another good option, but it has aged a bit (I have one).

Connect everything into the audio interface and record to a DAW like Reaper (many choices here). The only thing that might go elsewhere is midi from a keyboard.

Also figure out if you're gonna record or perform or both. Performance is more demanding in terms of space and the number of mics you need. Recording on a budget, you can overdub things. You might get by with less equipment and f.ex. wouldn't need the keyboard amp at all, though you should invest money into proper mics.

I might be able to help you out more, but I don't really post here much these days. Consider checking out the forum in my signature

Edit:

Also, the piezo pickups in ukuleles and guitars sound bad. It's preferable to record guitars etc. with a stereo mic setup (condenser mics since ribbon mics are more expensive). A popular budget option is a pair of Oktava MK-012 pencil mics, but again there are some options..
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Old 03-26-2023, 01:43 PM   #3 (permalink)
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Originally Posted by Guybrush View Post
Hi there

I think you should get something like a focusrite Clarett or Scarlett with enough inputs. I'd probably go for 8. The Roland Studio Capture is another good option, but it has aged a bit (I have one).

Connect everything into the audio interface and record to a DAW like Reaper (many choices here). The only thing that might go elsewhere is midi from a keyboard.

Also figure out if you're gonna record or perform or both. Performance is more demanding in terms of space and the number of mics you need. Recording on a budget, you can overdub things. You might get by with less equipment and f.ex. wouldn't need the keyboard amp at all, though you should invest money into proper mics.

I might be able to help you out more, but I don't really post here much these days. Consider checking out the forum in my signature

Edit:

Also, the piezo pickups in ukuleles and guitars sound bad. It's preferable to record guitars etc. with a stereo mic setup (condenser mics since ribbon mics are more expensive). A popular budget option is a pair of Oktava MK-012 pencil mics, but again there are some options..
Guybrush, thanks so much for the reply!

I would ideally like to both record and perform with the setup. Sorry for not making that clear.

I learned a lot from your post, including the issue of piezo pickup quality and the mic option!

Last night I was at a social function and chatted with a guy who is an amateur audio engineer. He suggested the option of using an audio mixer along with either external powered monitor speaker(s) connected to the audio mixer or output from the mixer to a PC and monitor through the PC's speakers as well as recording on the PC. I wasn't previously aware of that option.

Thanks again for your help!

P.S. I don't see a URL in your signature.
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Old 03-26-2023, 02:43 PM   #4 (permalink)
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URL is right down the end, in a different, lighter blue, where it says "Something Completely Different". You can click on it.
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Old 03-26-2023, 04:33 PM   #5 (permalink)
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Originally Posted by Elderly_beginner View Post
Guybrush, thanks so much for the reply!

I would ideally like to both record and perform with the setup. Sorry for not making that clear.

I learned a lot from your post, including the issue of piezo pickup quality and the mic option!

Last night I was at a social function and chatted with a guy who is an amateur audio engineer. He suggested the option of using an audio mixer along with either external powered monitor speaker(s) connected to the audio mixer or output from the mixer to a PC and monitor through the PC's speakers as well as recording on the PC. I wasn't previously aware of that option.

Thanks again for your help!

P.S. I don't see a URL in your signature.
As someone who performs and records, I have a mixer and a small PA for gigs and I also have mic preamps (which you don't need) and an audio interface for recording.

If you want to perform, the mixer is great. If you're going to record, the audio interface is great.

I'd say if you're only buying one thing, maybe it can be a mixer, but make sure it's something you can hook up to PC with USB or similar that will send multiple channels to a DAW (Digital Audio Workstation). What you don't want is sending stereo out from your mixer to your PC for recording. That means you'd mix on the mixer and send your mix to your PC, but getting all channels in and doing the mixing in a DAW on a computer has tremendous advantages when recording, so that should be your goal.

In a pinch, an audio interface like a Roland Studio Capture can also be used to perform, but since the mixer is typically software, you may have to bring a laptop on stage, at least during sound testing to set the levels. Adjustment during performance or feedback may be harder to deal with quickly if you can't get to a physical knob or slider quickly.
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Old 03-26-2023, 06:55 PM   #6 (permalink)
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Originally Posted by Guybrush View Post
Hi there

I think you should get something like a focusrite Clarett or Scarlett with enough inputs. I'd probably go for 8. The Roland Studio Capture is another good option, but it has aged a bit (I have one).

.
Second on the Focusrite. They have really good software, hardware, and the preamps are really clean imo. I used a Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 for years with much success.
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Old 03-26-2023, 07:17 PM   #7 (permalink)
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Originally Posted by Guybrush View Post
As someone who performs and records, I have a mixer and a small PA for gigs and I also have mic preamps (which you don't need) and an audio interface for recording.

If you want to perform, the mixer is great. If you're going to record, the audio interface is great.

I'd say if you're only buying one thing, maybe it can be a mixer, but make sure it's something you can hook up to PC with USB or similar that will send multiple channels to a DAW (Digital Audio Workstation). What you don't want is sending stereo out from your mixer to your PC for recording. That means you'd mix on the mixer and send your mix to your PC, but getting all channels in and doing the mixing in a DAW on a computer has tremendous advantages when recording, so that should be your goal.

In a pinch, an audio interface like a Roland Studio Capture can also be used to perform, but since the mixer is typically software, you may have to bring a laptop on stage, at least during sound testing to set the levels. Adjustment during performance or feedback may be harder to deal with quickly if you can't get to a physical knob or slider quickly.
Guybrush, thank you so much for the help information! I appreciate it.

Currently, I have been leaning toward getting a Yamaha MG10XU mixer that has a USB (to PC) interface.

This mixer appears to have physical knobs. So, maybe this Yamaha mixer has the features you are suggesting?

I have to admit that I am barely keeping up with the technical part of this topic. I am a retired techie (from another field), but the musical equipment topic is new to me.
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Old 03-26-2023, 07:18 PM   #8 (permalink)
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Second on the Focusrite. They have really good software, hardware, and the preamps are really clean imo. I used a Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 for years with much success.
Thanks for the recommendation, Dr Rez!!

One of the issues with audio interfaces is finding one with 3+ microphone inputs. I realize that I can use an XLR-to-1/4" adaptor to connect a mic to a Line In port, but I am not sure how important it is to preserve a balanced microphone signal. This is my ignorance showing....
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Old 03-27-2023, 04:50 PM   #9 (permalink)
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Thanks for the recommendation, Dr Rez!!

One of the issues with audio interfaces is finding one with 3+ microphone inputs. I realize that I can use an XLR-to-1/4" adaptor to connect a mic to a Line In port, but I am not sure how important it is to preserve a balanced microphone signal. This is my ignorance showing....
If you do that, you won't hear the mic. Or at least not until you turn it way loud and get lots of noise in the signal. Certain audio like mic and instrument level sources need to be amplified before you can use them as line. So for a mic to get connected to a line-in, it should pass through a preamp first.

Mixers and audio interfaces have preamps in most of their channels (just not in their aux/line ins, midi ins, spdif etc). Some mics, like the Shure SM7B, might need a lot of preamping (upwards of 70db) and more than what a typical audio interface or mixer can give, so that might be another thing to be aware of (although condenser mics are generally good in this regard).

About the Yamaha MG10XU, I have one of those I believe, just slightly bigger. I like it a lot as it's cheap, sounds fine and has compressor on the channels to f.ex. keep vocals a little more level. I've actually never hooked mine up to a PC through USB and recorded with it that way because I prefer an audio interface, but it probably works fine.

By the way, note that condenser mics also need phantom power (power through XLR cable). Like for a mixer, just check how many channels have phantom power.
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Old 03-27-2023, 06:47 PM   #10 (permalink)
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If you do that, you won't hear the mic. Or at least not until you turn it way loud and get lots of noise in the signal. Certain audio like mic and instrument level sources need to be amplified before you can use them as line. So for a mic to get connected to a line-in, it should pass through a preamp first.

Mixers and audio interfaces have preamps in most of their channels (just not in their aux/line ins, midi ins, spdif etc). Some mics, like the Shure SM7B, might need a lot of preamping (upwards of 70db) and more than what a typical audio interface or mixer can give, so that might be another thing to be aware of (although condenser mics are generally good in this regard).

About the Yamaha MG10XU, I have one of those I believe, just slightly bigger. I like it a lot as it's cheap, sounds fine and has compressor on the channels to f.ex. keep vocals a little more level. I've actually never hooked mine up to a PC through USB and recorded with it that way because I prefer an audio interface, but it probably works fine.

By the way, note that condenser mics also need phantom power (power through XLR cable). Like for a mixer, just check how many channels have phantom power.
I'm very intrigued by your first paragraph. I had not thought about the point that you make, although your explanation makes sense.

I have seen microphones for sale with built-in cable with 1/4" jack on the 'far' end. I wonder how that is used.....

The MG10XU has phantom power on all four XLR ports.

I am planning to use Shure PGA58 Dynamic Cardioid mics, although I'm not sure how to figure out if the MG10XU provides enough preamping. By preamping, do you mean Gain?

Looking at the MG10XU specs, I can't identify the spec that would address preamping of mics, although I admit that I'm a newbie wrt mixers and mics.

Maybe I'm in way over my head in terms of buying a mixer.....

Anyhow, thanks for the help!

Ralph
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